Success against teams in the bottom half of the Big Ten has Wisconsin undefeated in conference play and tied atop the league standings.
The No. 11 Badgers hope to be as fortunate as they begin a stretch against some of the league’s better teams, starting Saturday afternoon when they look for a rare win at Purdue.
Wisconsin (16-2, 6-0) hung on for a 64-61 home win over Michigan on Tuesday for its 10th straight victory, remaining in a first-place tie with No. 7 Indiana.
The Badgers host the Hoosiers on Thursday before visiting an improved Minnesota team on Feb. 3.
With the exception of Tuesday’s win, the Badgers have had little trouble winning at home in Big Ten play—beating Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern—or in road games at Michigan and Penn State. Those opponents have a combined 6-27 record in conference play.
“If you want to get to that level, these are the games that you’re going to have to win in the Big Ten,” said guard Joe Krabbenhoft, part of a Wisconsin team which allows a league-low 54.4 points per game.
As the Badgers look to start 7-0 in the Big Ten for the second consecutive season, they face their first opponent with a winning league record in the surging Boilermakers (14-5, 5-1), who are tied with No. 10 Michigan State for third place.
Winning at Purdue has not been easy for the Badgers, who are 1-30 in West Lafayette since the 1972-73 season, with the lone win coming on Jan. 5, 2005. This will be their first visit to Purdue since losing 70-62 on Feb. 4, 2006.
Wisconsin, though, has won four of five against the Boilermakers and is 4-1 on the road this season, including a 67-66 win at then-No. 9 Texas on Dec. 29.
“Being 4-1 on the road, that is excellent,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “I don’t care who you’re playing. So for the players, I’m extremely happy that they’ve been able to get away from the Kohl Center and get things done on somebody else’s court, because it’s tough.”
The Badgers were tough enough against Michigan despite being outrebounded 35-24 and allowing 22 points off 21 offensive rebounds by the Wolverines. Marcus Landry and Michael Flowers each had 14 points for Wisconsin, which shot 52.0 percent from the field.
Flowers and Landry have keyed the Badgers’ recent success while leading scorers Brian Butch and Trevon Hughes have cooled off. Flowers has averaged 16.0 points in the last three games and Landry has averaged 15.5 in his last four.
Butch is averaging 12.8 points this season but has failed to score in double figures in three straight games while shooting 7-of-19 from the field. Hughes scores a team-high 13.2 points per game but has been held below double digits in four of the last six games.
Flowers had a team-high 15 points in Wisconsin’s 69-64 home win over Purdue on Jan. 17, 2007 in the teams’ only meeting last season.
The Boilermakers could be playing as well any team in the conference after winning 64-42 at Penn State on Wednesday for their season-high fourth straight win since losing 78-75 at Michigan State on Jan. 8.
Purdue, which is 10-1 at home, hasn’t won five consecutive conference games since winning eight in a row in 1999-2000.
Freshman Robbie Hummel had 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists on Wednesday for Purdue, which tied its season high by making 11 3-pointers in 25 attempts.
Hummel, a 6-8 swingman from Valparaiso, is averaging 13.6 points in his last three contests to raise his season average to 10.7.
“That’s the way he is all the time,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “He’s always a guy who’s ready to play and get dialed in and ready to go.”
Purdue is 1-2 versus ranked teams this season, including a 67-59 win over then-No. 22 Louisville on Dec. 15.