Badgers 67, Boilermakers 62: The Elusive Victory At Mackey Arena


Entering Thursday night, the last time Wisconsin won at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette was seven years ago. Shariff Chambliss ran the point, Alando Tucker was the team’s budding superstar, and at least on January 5, 2005, Zach Morley — this dudewas the team’s leading scorer.

And that comprised a full one half of Wisconsin’s wins at Mackey Arena. The other came on February 12, 1972, at a time when box scores looked like this:

Just “G”, “F”, and “T”. That’s “Goals” — they were all worth two back then — “Free,” and “Total.” Then total fouls and scoring by half. That’s all you get.

The point is, the Badgers don’t win very often at Mackey Arena. After starting Big Ten play off 1-3, their third win in the building couldn’t come at a better time.

The run with which the Badgers opened the game would have been shocking regardless of the shooting woes which have plagued the squad over their three game losing streak. Wisconsin dropped in five of its first six three point attempts to jump out to an 18 point lead, dropping beautiful swish shots as if throwing a rock into Lake Mendota (outside of one desperation Mike Bruesewitz bank shot). But, as with most leads based on crazy hot shooting, the Badgers allowed the Boilermakers to slowly but surely creep back into the game. By halftime, the Boilers were within shouting distance (34-22). And then, before you knew it, a battle was on hand.

Simply put, Wisconsin did not play well after the hot start. The fluid offensive movement — passing, cutting, penetration, and of course, shooting — which dominated the first eight minutes of the game quickly disappeared, as the game was left out on the perimeter, where threes clanked and, worse, turnovers multiplied. The Badgers turned the ball over six times each half, with the resulting 20.3% turnover ratio only better than the weekend’s embarassment at Michigan. But the Badgers played just enough defense to stave off multiple Boilermaker attacks, holding Robbie Hummel to just 5-of-17 shooting and the Purdue squad as a whole to 34.4% shooting from the field.

There wasn’t one player for the Badgers who starred offensively. Jordan Taylor hit his free throws (8-of-10) and dished out five assists. Mike Bruesewitz and Ben Brusts were the assassins from deep, combining for 25 points on 7-of-8 three-point shooting, including back-to-back hits to open the lead from 48-45 to 54-45 with 6:15 to go. Although there was still plenty of time for Purdue to mount a run at that point, it seemed like the sense of urgency which followed ruined the momentum which brought on a 13-0 Purdue run just minutes earlier, and the Boilermakers went into desperation chucking mode far too early for a team which usually plays with more discipline.

Even though it wasn’t a pretty nor particularly well played game for the Badgers, they got precisely what they needed in West Lafayette: a quality win on the road, against a legitimate opponent. Not only should this win play well with the tournament committee, but it allows the Badgers to claw back into a bunched up Big Ten race. With Minnesota (previously 0-4 in conference with their own home loss to Iowa) taking down Indiana at Assembly Hall, five teams — including the Hoosiers and preseason favorites Ohio State — sit bunched at 3-2 or 2-3 in the conference, and no team has more than four wins to their name yet. With the amount of quality teams in the conference — seven in the top 40 of the Pomeroy rankings and nine in the top 60 — road wins in the Big Ten will be tough to pick up. The one Wisconsin earned at Mackey Arena will pay dividends for Bo Ryan and the Badgers, for short term momentum, in the Big Ten Conference, and come Tournament Time in March.