Wisconsin ends conference skid with win over Purdue
By Jeff Washburn
The Sports Xchange
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Reuters) -- Fiery Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan was under the weather Saturday afternoon, so much so that he warned his players that the flu might get the better of him during some point in the game at Purdue.
While Ryan skipped the postgame press conference because of the illness, handing the conversational duties to associate head coach Greg Gard, there is no question the return trip to Madison will be much more pleasant for Ryan, even though he is ailing.
Thanks to strong starts to each half, ninth-ranked Wisconsin's three-game Big Ten Conference losing streak is over.
The ninth-ranked Badgers outscored Purdue 17-6 to begin the game and 9-2 to start the second half on their way to a 72-58 victory on Saturday in Mackey Arena, where Wisconsin triumphs have been few and far between.
"We hit some shots early," Gard said. "They made a run back at us, and you have to weather storms on the road. That was key to hit shots early and get off to a good start. We got into the bonus early and were able to shoot free throws. We were able to control possessions on the road."
Including Saturday, Badgers basketball teams are 4-37 in Mackey, which opened in December 1967. Wisconsin went from 1972 until 2005 without winning in West Lafayette.
After beginning the season with 16 consecutive victories, Wisconsin lost at Indiana, to Michigan in the Kohl Center and then at Minnesota, giving up 75, 77 and then 81 points, respectively, in those conference defeats.
That was the first time Wisconsin had lost three in a row since the 2011-2012 season, when it lost consecutive games to Iowa, MichiganState and Michigan before ending that drought by winning 67-62 at Purdue.
Wisconsin laid the foundation for this streak-ending victory with a solid beginning that included 3-pointers from forward Sam Dekker, centerFrank Kaminsky and guard Ben Brust.
With 15:18 remaining in the first half, Wisconsin had a 17-6 advantage, and cold-shooting Purdue was forced to play from behind the rest of the way.
The Boilermakers' chances were damaged when 7-foot sophomore center A.J. Hammons was saddled with two fouls in the first 90 seconds, then picked up his third with 9:52 remaining in the first half.
"It's something that we talked about, trying to get him a couple of fouls early," Kaminsky said. "We kind of took him out of his rhythm a little bit. Having him in the middle in the paint is good for them. We were able to get some things at the rim that really got things going."
Hammons, who had attempted 31 free throws in Purdue's previous two games, struggled to become part of the action when he returned to the game with just more than 13 minutes remaining, and the Boilermakers were forced to settle for 3-point attempts, which is not their forte.
Purdue fell to 13-7 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten, losing for the second consecutive time. The Boilermakers were coming off a 63-60 double overtime loss on Wednesday night at Northwestern, a game they led by seven points late in regulation.
It also is Purdue's second conference home defeat in four games, also falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten opener for each team.
All five Wisconsin starters reached double figures, led by Kaminsky's 16, Dekker's 15 and 15 from Traevon Jackson, the Wisconsin point guard.
"I don't know what happened, other than I don't think guys were ready to play," said Purdue senior guard Terone Johnson, who shared team scoring honors with guard Bryson Scott with 10 each.
"For a game like this, you have to be ready to play. We weren't on the offensive glass, and they were getting energy. Guys were taking bad shots as far as in transition and things like that. Those are shots that they want you to take. We were content to take bad shots. We took four 3s in a row, and I think they scored three possessions in a row off that."
Purdue was only three of 17 from 3-point range and finished at 35.4 percent overall (23 of 65) for the game.
Purdue coach Matt Painter said the Boilermakers did not do a good job of carrying out their assignments.
"We have too many guys that play through their offense," Painter said. "Especially when you play a team like Wisconsin, you have to be able to play their style of basketball. We did not play like a mature team has to play."
NOTES: With a driving layup in the first half, Purdue senior G Terone Johnson became the 30th player in school history to reach 1,200 in his career. ... The 58 points allowed is Wisconsin's best defensive effort since allowing 49 in a Jan. 2 victory at Northwestern. ... Sam Dekker's 15-point effort is in keeping with the Wisconsin forward's team-leading average of 14.1, one of five Bo Ryan players to average at least 9.1 points a game.