In a night that Badger fans would rather forget, Wisconsin’s men came up just short of knocking off #5 Purdue, losing 63-61. This close loss came a few short hours after the Lady Badgers saw their season come to an end at the hands of Purdue’s women.
Max Klesmit showed out
Over the last five games, the junior transfer guard from Wofford has averaged 11.2 points per game, and that included his season-high of 19 against Michigan.
He matched that high tonight, leading the Badgers in scoring with 19 points on 7-11 from the field and 3-5 from beyond the arc. It was his fiery spirit and moxie that brought Wisconsin basketball back from a 4-point deficit at the half.
Three of his baskets in the second half alone either tied the game or gave Wisconsin the lead. He made his only two foul shots of the evening, cutting Purdue’s lead to one point, 62-61 with 6 seconds left.
In the last nine games of the season, after seemingly finding his niche in the team, Klesmit showed why he left Southern Conference to play in the bright lights of the Big Ten.
Wisconsin basketball highlights
Wisconsin’s defense did a very admirable job against the clear-cut (from a betting standpoint) favorite to win National Player of the Year. Sure, Edey recorded a double-double with 17 points and an impressive 19 rebounds.
Even with those numbers, the Badgers had multiple chances to tie or win in the closing seconds of the game. He came into the game averaging 2.7 blocked shots on the road and only had one rejection this evening.
After shooting less than 40% in eight of their last nine games, they hit 10 of their 24 3’s, for a solid 41.7%
Just as impressive was their perimeter defense. Coming into tonight’s contest, Purdue was 6th in the Big Ten with a 3-point percentage of 34.8%. The Badger’s defense held them to just 4 of 19 from long range, a 21.1%
The Boilermakers had 50% more turnovers than the Badgers, with 12 compared to UW’s 8.
How did Wisconsin basketball lose
Purdue hit 24 of 48 shots from the field, exactly 50%. That’s not that difficult when you have a 7’4″ center who has the offensive arsenal that Edey does.
The Boilermakers also won the rebounding contest with ease, hauling in 37 boards (10 offensive) to the 23 (7 offensive) rebounds of Wisconsin.
Yet, with both of these significant advantages, UW had a chance to tie or win it in the closing seconds.
The area that significantly hurt Wisconsin was the discrepancy in foul shooting. Purdue only shot 61.1% from the charity stripe, but they made double the amount of foul shots that Wisconsin attempted.
All year, Wisconsin has struggled from the foul line. Tonight, they couldn’t have done any better, hitting all five of their attempts. Purdue just shot so many more (18 attempts with 11 made) that it was just too much to overcome.
I try not to blame officials for the game because I believe if you would have played well enough, it wouldn’t be in the ref’s hands. So, this call didn’t cost Wisconsin the game, but it sure didn’t help. I’ve watched it about 6 times, in various slow-motion replays, and it sure looked like there was some solid contact with Klesmit on this drive.
Where do the Wisconsin men go from here?
As they were among the first four out going into tonight’s contest, this loss almost assuredly ended their chances for an at-large bid.
Enter the beauty of conference tournaments. Wisconsin’s Big Ten tournament run is going to be a difficult one. Going into the game at Michigan, they had the chance to play themselves into at least one bye, possibly two.
Now, if they want to go dancing in the Madness, they most likely will need to win the whole tourney. And to do that, they’re going to need to win five games in five days.
Improbable? Yes. Impossible? Absolutely not. Every so often you see a team with a horrible losing record win their conference tourney and sneak in through the automatic qualifier.
Why can’t the Wisconsin men?
Wisconsin basketball played 17 games this season that were decided by five points or less. They were 10-7 in those contests. The losses include the overtime loss to current #3 Kansas, a 4-point loss to Michigan State without Wahl, a loss to #2 in the Big Ten Northwestern, and finally blowing the 19-point lead against Rutgers.
Of course it won’t be easy and more than likely will not happen. But tonight’s game against Purdue shows that Wisconsin can defitely hold their own with anybody in the Big Ten.