Sunday, February 10, 2008

Badgers Get Purdidn't

Ouch. That smarts. Despite a few horrible calls, the game was called as it should have been in W. Lafayette--- and thus Purdue was largely taken to task for their handsy, chippy defense and UW shot and made a ton of free throws. But it didn't matter anyway. And that's because Purdue came out on fire, built up a fourteen point lead, and shot quite well for the entire game (53%) and UW shot horribly for the entire game (32% and 16% (!) on three pointers) and had way too many turnovers (18), especially in the first half when Purdue was building up its lead. Actually, I think you could trace how close the game was based on if UW was turning the ball over. When they turned the ball over, Purdue's lead grew. When they stopped doing that, it shrank. The Badgers pulled close in the second half, partly because they weren't turning the ball over. Then there were a couple of key turnovers late in the game that sealed it, like Trevon dribbling the ball off a Purdue guy's foot, while trying to split a trap. The lead was four then, but the breakaway dunk that TO lead to made it an insurmountable six.

To give credit where it's due, Purdue's defense was pretty good when they weren't fouling. The Badgers did not have a lot of clean looks. But they missed a lot, and I mean a lot, of short range decent shots. Now what's this due to? Partly, I think it might be due to being tired, both mentally and physically. Physically, look at the box score for this game and the Iowa game. With Leuer and Stiemsma not seeing many minutes and Gullickson still in the dog house, the Badgers have essentially become a six man rotation-- only six guys played more than 5 minutes. Plus, the Badgers spent Wednesday night in Iowa City due to the weather, and that was after traveling to Minneapolis last Sunday. Then they were required by NCAA rules to take Thursday off, though they spent half that day getting back from Iowa, leaving them only one day, Friday, to get prepared for Purdue. And I have always felt, under Ryan, that the Badgers played far, far better with several days to prepare. They're worst performances, like UNLV and the Ohio State game in the Big Ten Tournament, often came on short turnarounds. Purdue, conversely, played their last game on Tuesday night at home, giving them Wednesday through Friday to rest and get prepped. And it really seemed like Purdue was more prepared, more energetic and more intense. The Badgers just looked reactionary and frustrated the entire game, like they were playing on tired legs. I thought that was especially notable on defense-- Purdue wasn't gashing them, but looks were often less contested than they normally are, and the help rotations were missing sometimes.

Now it's time to admit something-- Purdue is a good team. They start a bunch of freshmen, but those guys are really, really talented. Take a look at the ranking of their current freshmen class. Last year was a banner year in Northwest Indiana high school basketball, and the Boilermakers took full advantage of it. The youth apparently caused them to totally blow it a few times earlier in the season (losing at home to Wofford and Iowa State), but they've matured. They're a team to be reckoned with, unfortunately.

Now UW has a few days to rest, but their next game may be an even tougher affair-- at Indiana on Wednesday night. The Hoosiers will likely be smelling blood, and will be looking for some payback. And they should probably get it-- their three-point shooters were remarkably off at Madison a week and a half back, and UW can't count on that happening again. A tough loss and a tough road ahead for Wisconsin.

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