MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Purdue continued to claw its way back into the Big Ten title race, thanks in large part to a big shot by Robbie Hummel.
Hummel’s go-ahead 3-pointer with a minute left in the game helped lift the 16th-ranked Boilermakers to a 64-63 victory over free-falling Wisconsin on Tuesday night.
It was the fifth straight win for Purdue (16-4, 5-2 Big Ten), including two straight on the road—a sharp turnaround for a preseason favorite that stumbled at the start of conference play with a pair of losses.
“We definitely lost a few games before,” said E’Twaun Moore, who led the Boilermakers with 17 points. “We’ve been playing as hard as we could, and we were saying we’ve got to pick it up and get things rolling.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin (12-8, 3-5) has lost five straight and suddenly can’t even defend its home court.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Badgers hadn’t lost back-to-back home games in eight seasons under coach Bo Ryan and hadn’t lost five straight conference games since 1998.
Now they’ve been swept by Purdue, which beat the Badgers 65-52 at home Jan. 11.
“For us to knock them out, that gives us an advantage for the Big Ten championship,” Moore said.
Wisconsin followed their earlier loss at Purdue with a home loss to Minnesota in overtime, then went on to lose at Iowa—another overtime game— and at Illinois to extend their losing streak to four coming into Tuesday.
“It’s frustrating,” Hughes said. “We’re always there.”
But the Badgers just can’t close it out.
Ryan bristled slightly when asked what it takes for a team to learn how to win, citing his team’s earlier victory over Idaho State as evidence that it already does.
So, any common thread in the recent close losses?
“The common thread is, we didn’t get enough points,” Ryan said.
Keaton Nankivil scored a career-high 21 for Wisconsin, keeping the Badgers in contention by going 5-for-5 from 3-point range. Nankivil, a 6-foot-8 post player, was 1-for-4 in his career from 3-point range coming into the game.
“We were like, ‘Aw, man that’s impossible,”’ Moore said. “He was knocking ‘em down.”
Nankivil wasn’t taking a bow.
“I think that’s probably the least important thing,” Nankivil said. “We’ve got to find a way to get back on track.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter said Nankivil was left open because the Boilermakers were more concerned about defending Marcus Landry inside off the Badgers’ ball screens.
“He made us pay,” Painter said. “Now you’ve got to go back and see if he can consistently make shots.”
Trailing by five after Nankivil’s 3-pointer with 4:46 left in the game, Purdue used 3-pointers by Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer to get back in the game.
Then, with Purdue trailing 58-57, Hummel came off a screen to hit a wide-open 3 near the top of the key with a minute left on the clock.
Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor missed a 3-point try with 38 seconds left, and Grant hit a pair of free throws to put Purdue up by four with 32.8 seconds left.
Taylor then hit a driving layup to cut Purdue’s lead to two, and Kramer missed the first half of a one-and-one to give the ball back to the Badgers with 17.1 seconds left.
But Taylor’s driving layup attempt bounced in and out of the basket, and JaJuan Johnson hit two free throws to seal the game for the Boilermakers. Trevon Hughes hit a late three, but it wasn’t enough.
“I was really proud of our guys for hanging tough late in the game,” Painter said.
But the Boilermakers’ rally wouldn’t have come without defensive breakdowns by the Badgers—uncharacteristic of Ryan-coached teams. Wisconsin left the lane open too often in the first half, then couldn’t guard on the perimeter at the end.
But if Wisconsin couldn’t beat Purdue, at least the Badgers could beat up the Boilermakers.
Tuesday’s game was attended by Baltimore Ravens safety Jim Leonhard, a former Badgers football player—and Leonhard would have been proud of a devastating first-half pick by Wisconsin’s Joe Krabbenhoft that sent Purdue’s Lewis Jackson tumbling to the floor.
Painter said he didn’t have a good view of the play, but said Jackson’s teammates needed to do a better job of communicating that the screen was coming.
“I got more upset with our guys when that happens,” Painter said.
Hummel also took a hard spill later in the first half, hitting the deck after he tripped over Nankivil’s leg.
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