Purdue-Wisconsin Preview

JEFF MEZYDLO (STATS Senior Writer)
The Associated Press

No matter the caliber of the competition, Wisconsin is poised to continue the stellar play that has it firmly in the hunt for a Big Ten title.

Facing their third straight sub-.500 opponent, the No. 17 Badgers conclude their home schedule trying for a fourth consecutive blowout victory Sunday against struggling Purdue.

Wisconsin's current win streak began against No. 16 Ohio State and continued with easy wins over Northwestern and Nebraska, two of the only three teams below the Boilermakers in the league standings. The Badgers (20-8, 11-4) won those matchups by average margin of 27.0 points while scoring 72.3 per game - 10 above their average in conference play - and shooting 50.0 percent.

"I think we're playing at a high level right now," said senior Jared Berggren, 13 of 21 from the field over the last three games. "We're shooting better, which is a big part of why we look so good."

Winners in six of seven, the Badgers are tied with ninth-ranked Michigan State for second place in the Big Ten and nipping at the heels of No. 1 Indiana. They fell one game short of sharing the league's regular-season title in 2011-12 and haven't won one since 2008.

Before getting a shot Thursday at the Spartans, who face a stiff test at fourth-ranked Michigan on Sunday, Wisconsin can't look past Purdue (13-15, 6-9).

"Hopefully we close things out in the Big Ten and hope for the best as far as getting the help we need to get a piece of the title," said Berggren, who became Wisconsin's all-time leader with 126 blocks after getting four in Thursday's 77-46 rout of Nebraska.

Though the Boilermakers have lost four of five, including three straight road losses by double digits, they've been competitive while dropping their last two at the Kohl Center by seven points each.

However, it might be tough for a Purdue team that starts two freshmen and has two more among its top reserves to stop the surging Badgers. Wisconsin has not allowed more than 49 points in three consecutive games or 39.4 percent shooting in six straight.

Offensively, reserve freshman Sam Dekker has provided a spark with an average of 13.6 points over the past five games. He's shot 61.1 percent in that span, including 11 of 20 from 3-point range, after hitting four 3s and scoring 19 points Tuesday.

"(My teammates) don't mind when I put up a bad shot once in a while because they know I have the skill and the talent to make that and I'm going to work hard for these guys," said Dekker, who also tied a season high with four assists.

The Badgers recorded 19 assists, including 13 on 16 baskets in the first half, and improved to 12-0 when finishing with at least 14.

"For us to be successful offensively, I've said this before, we need to be able to make the extra pass," coach Bo Ryan said.

Ben Brust averaged 14.7 points in seven February games, compared to 7.9 in January, and scored a team-high 13 in the most recent meeting with Purdue - a 67-62 road win last season.

Terone Johnson led the Boilermakers in that contest with 16 points. The junior guard averaged 17.8 points and went 9 of 16 from beyond the arc in a four-game stretch before going scoreless in Wednesday's 58-48 loss at Iowa.

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