Tuesday’s game at the Kohl Center began as ugly as the blizzard which hit the Midwest at about the same time. Through fifteen minutes in the first half, Purdue (18-5, 7-3) had 10 turnovers and the Badgers (16-5, 6-3) were shooting around 30%. Similar to the storm, the game heated up in the second half with the lead changing hands numerous times.
By: Nick Grays
What It Means: With the win, the Badgers are still alive in what seems a one-man race in the Big Ten. Fortunately for Wisconsin, they have two match-ups with #1 Ohio State who have yet to lose a game this season. More importantly, the Badgers have distanced their selves from mess in the middle of the standings and legitimately put in a claim as the Big Ten’s second best team by beating the Boilermakers.
Despite brutal weather conditions, fans still came out to see the Badgers win their 15th straight game in Madison. There’s something about the Kohl Center as the team improved to a perfect 12-0 on their home-court this season. Will the Buckeyes February 12th trip to Madison be their first loss on the season; it very well could be.
Player of the Game: Senior Forward Jon Leuer
Leuer has come up big all season long, but this game against Purdue was really a showcase of his versatile skill set. Leuer was everywhere while posting 24 points and 13 rebounds. He did it from the post, behind the arc and from the charity stripe.
I bet you didn’t know that Leuer is making over 90% of his free throws in Big Ten play this season (34-for-37), pretty handy for a big man who touches the ball a lot at the end of games.
Leuer’s 24 points marked the ninth time this season he’s gone for at least 20 and the 17th time in his career. He has reached double figures in 28 straight games.
Highlight of the Night: Ryan Evans received a surprising 19 minutes off the bench and boy did he deserve them. Evans ally-oop slam from Jordan Taylor with just under ten minutes to cut the Badgers deficit to four was a momentum-changer.
He also hit a fairly important shot (don’t mind the sarcasm) to put the Badgers ahead with a minute left in the game and thirty seconds later came up with a huge defensive stop to put the game away for Bucky. Following the defensive stop, he wasn’t quite done yet as he put down his second dunk of the night in a break-away with seconds left in the game.
Stat of the Game: Wisconsin’s 66-59 victory tallied the 38th-straight home game, not counting overtime, that the Badgers held their opponent under 70 points. Purdue came into Tuesday’s game with the Big Ten’s third best offense at 74.4 points per game.
Quotables: “Taylor is a tough match-up, Jon Leuer is a tough match-up. I thought the difference tonight was Josh Gasser and Ryan Evans, those two guys stepped up and that’s what you need,” said Boilermakers Head Coach Matt Painter.
Bo Ryan commented on why his teams don’t lose two in a row.
“Here’s my theory: don’t lose. Sometimes it’s the schedule; who you’re playing, where you’re playing them, sometimes there’s other circumstances involved. I don’t try to read too much into it, I just want our players to be consistent in their work effort, and the little things like how they took care of the ball. I don’t dwell on the loss. If you come to our practices, you’d have no idea what happened the game before, and there is a purpose to that,” said Ryan.
What’s Next: The Badgers will once again be overshadowed by the Green Bay Packers when they play on Super Bowl Sunday. This time, it’s Tom Izzo’s struggling Michigan State Spartans (13-8, 5-4) who come to the Kohl Center for a match-up at 12:00 PM CT.
After losing three straight games to the likes of Illinois, Purdue and Michigan, the Spartans squeaked out a 84-83 overtime win over Indiana this past Sunday. I expect the Spartans to bring their A-game as they could really use a win in Madison to limit the damage of a season spiraling out of control.
Are the Badgers the second-best team in the Big Ten? What did you think of the Badgers win over the Boilermakers? Let me know by commenting below!
Rapid Reaction Archive:
Wisconsin 99 Prairie View A&M 55 (11-14-10)
Wisconsin 85 North Dakota 53 (11-16-10)
Wisconsin 87 NC State 48 (12-1-10)
Wisconsin 61 Milwaukee 40 (12-8-10)
Wisconsin 70 Green Bay 56 (12-13-10)
Wisconsin 80 Coppin State 55 (12-23-10)
Wisconsin 66 Michigan 50 (1-5-10)
Wisconsin 76 Illinois 66 (1-15-10)
Wisconsin 69 Indiana 60 (1-20-10)
Nick Grays is a senior editor at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Brewers. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.Follow paulmbanks