There is no shame in losing at Purdue for Wisconsin as they have not had much success there, but this one was there for them. Thanks to Keaton Nankivil being on fire from three, 7 of 8, the Badgers were able to keep clawing back into the game and held a one point lead in the final minute. Purdue was able to score with Etwan Moore in the lane to get back a one point lead. The Badgers still had two chances to score, Hughes missed a three, then a runner. Both shots were contested, and it looked like Hughes elbow was grazed on the three point shot.
I did not have a problem with the final shot, but I did not like the first shot by Hughes. He was not having a great night, so he was the last person I want shooting a three with the game on the line. I wished he would have went to the basket the first time which could have drawn the defense and left Nankivil open for another three.
The Badgers hung tough in a difficult place to play without one of their top three players, Jon Leuer. This win could have been huge for NCAA seeding, but will still be in the “Good Loss” category when seeding discussions come up. I would not be surprised if these teams meet again in the Big 10 tournament, the winner of that game will likely get the better seed.
The Badgers continue to prove they are better prepared for pressure defenses and teams that shoot the three. Purdue and Duke are experts in this style of play and in past years the Badgers had a lot of trouble with these teams, this year the Badgers are much better setup to handle it.
In my mind the biggest reason the Badgers are better prepared for the defensive pressure is the ability to pair Jordan Taylor with Hughes to handle ball-handling. It is much tougher to guard too tough ball-handlers. Add to that the ability of both Leuer and Nankivil’s ability to step out and shoot the three it forces defenses to choose what they want to take away, an easy drive by one of the guards or an open three by two capable big men.
On the defensive end the Badgers are able to extend their defense further out than they have in the past due to the athleticism of Hughes, Taylor, and Evans/Wilson.
This team is much better prepared for these styles in March, these same styles that have knocked the Badgers out the last few years.