Wisconsin captured college basketball’s spotlight over the weekend, staging a dramatic home-court comeback to defeat the nation’s final unbeaten team.
An even more difficult challenge may await the 10th-ranked Badgers on the road.
Wisconsin has won in West Lafayette, Ind., only twice in nearly 40 years, and No. 11 Purdue is undefeated at home this season entering Wednesday night’s Big Ten showdown.
Both the Badgers (19-5, 9-3) and Boilermakers (20-5, 9-3) are chasing Ohio State in the conference standings, but they’re closer to the Buckeyes than they were before Saturday.
That’s when Wisconsin erased a 15-point second-half deficit to earn a 71-67 victory, ending then-No. 1 Ohio State’s 24-game winning streak.
“This was a huge win for us to keep moving forward. We are not done yet, though,” forward Jon Leuer said. “We feel like we still have a lot of work left to do. We are just trying to get better every day so we can be playing our best basketball down the stretch.”
Point guard Jordan Taylor keyed the comeback, scoring 21 of his 27 points after halftime, including eight in a row during the Badgers’ 15-0 run.
“He’s a pretty good player all through the season, but what he did right there I don’t know if there are too many players in the country that have ever done,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “Not just this year, but at any time, against the No. 1 team in the country.”
Ryan said the crowd “willed” the Badgers as they improved to 14-0 this season and 150-11 under Ryan at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers have lost four in a row at Purdue to fall to 2-36 all-time at Mackey Arena.
The Boilermakers, 13-0 at home this season and 74-7 there since 2006-07, have won consecutive games since a 66-59 loss in Madison on Feb. 1. They won 81-70 at Illinois on Sunday.
They’ll host the Buckeyes on Sunday, but coach Matt Painter said Purdue can’t think about surging toward a conference title quite yet.
“If you let guys float talk about a Big Ten championship,” Painter said, “you’re about to get beat.”
Purdue may need to do a better job containing Leuer if it wants to beat the Badgers. The senior had 24 points and 13 rebounds earlier this month after averaging 3.8 points on 22.9 percent shooting in his first five games against the Boilermakers.
Wisconsin will certainly have an eye on E’Twaun Moore, who has 55 points in his last two games and is averaging 19.0 while shooting 62.3 percent in Purdue’s last four meetings with the Badgers.
Moore is 30 points shy of reaching 2,000 for his career, which would make him the third player in Big Ten history to reach that total along with 500 rebounds and 300 assists.
He had 20 points against the Illini, helping Purdue rally after shooting 28.6 percent in the first half. The Boilermakers scored two-thirds of their points after halftime, as Big Ten scoring leader JaJuan Johnson finished with 24 points and nine rebounds.
“That first half, we shot terrible - I was missing layups,” Johnson said. “When you make shots, it looks a lot better.”
Moore and Johnson, both seniors, can break Purdue’s program record with their 102nd career victory Wednesday. They join Leuer and Taylor among the Big Ten’s top six in scoring.