The Wisconsin Badgers lost to the No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers in a 63-62 game on Thursday night, dropping yet another nail-biter, although they had a chance to take the lead in the final minute.
With the loss, the Badgers dropped to 16-13 on the season and 8-11 in the conference, with the weekend’s game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers serving as a vital game, not only for the Big 10 tournament, but also for their March Madness hopes.
Here are the quick takeaways from Wisconsin’s loss on Thursday.
Going into the game, I highlighted the importance of the three-ball, which was Wisconsin’s lone major advantage heading into the matchup.
With Zach Edey manning the paint, it was integral that Wisconsin created opportunities on the outside, and they did exactly that.
The Badgers shot 41.7% from three, hitting ten shots from deep, while the Boilermakers significantly struggled, shooting just 4/19 from beyond the arc.
The stark difference was the primary reason why Wisconsin remained competitive for the entirety of the game, as they utilized the three-ball to sustain runs.
Max Klesmit was the main spark, leading the Badgers with three three-pointers, while him, Connor Essegian, Isaac Lindsey, and Chucky Hepburn combined to shoot 8/14 from distance.
In the preview today, I said how the point guards would be important in Thursday’s contest, and they proved exactly that.
Chucky Hepburn ended up playing, seeing the court for 34 minutes, and scoring 13 points on 5/12 shooting, coming just behind Max Klesmit in points.
When Hepburn was on his game, the Badgers significantly benefitted, specifically during Wisconsin’s run in the second half when the guard hit a three-pointer and a pullup jumper within a span of two minutes, keeping Purdue at bay.
But, down the stretch, Hepburn attempted multiple deep fadeaway shots from the baseline, which weren’t high-caliber shots, although his teammates’ reluctance to take opportunities at times forced his hand.
Max Klesmit had an impressive game, taking over for the Badgers with a team-high 19 points on 7/11 shooting, while defending Fletcher Loyer fairly well, although the Purdue guard got him a few times.
Connor Essegian provided a spark early, but foul trouble held him to just 27 minutes, limiting his offensive presence.
Overall, though, the Badgers' guards outplayed Purdue’s backcourt, which was a primary reason why Wisconsin remained in the game.
In addition to three-pointers and guards, free throws were a key to the game for me, as the Boilermakers came into the game shooting over 20 free throws, while hitting at a 75.3% rate.
Meanwhile, the Badgers aren’t known as a free-throw shooting team, shooting just 13.8 per game, while hitting only 66.6% of their shots.
The disparity played a big role in the game, as Purdue got to the line early and often, shooting 18 free throws in the game, although they hit just 11 of their shots.
The Badgers, on the other hand, shot just five free throws, with four of them coming near the end of the game.
While some calls can be questioned, Wisconsin didn’t look to attack Zach Edey much, with the Badgers’ opting to pass the ball out or take low-quality shots inside, which led to their lower number of free throws.