Bullseye! Purdue hangs on in a close one to hold off the Wisconsin Badgers and win by a score of 73-69.
What a hard-nosed, tough, gut-it-out type win for the Boilermakers. After dropping close ones against Minnesota and Maryland, this is exactly what Purdue needed near the end of the regular season.
Purdue came out of the gates playing about as poorly as they had all season, allowing Wisconsin to jump out to a 10-3 lead and coughing it up 5 times early in the first half. Zach Edey started his Thanksgiving-sized feast on the Badgers in the first half when he scored 7 points during a stretch that led to Purdue going on a run to hold a 30-23 advantage with a little over 2 minutes left.
Things got a little spicy when Wisconsin starting closing the gap with a few timely buckets to cut it to 30-28 going into the break. The second half was an absolute war with both teams going back and forth to keep the game extremely tight. The real tipping point for the game was Aaron Wheeler scoring 5 points in less than a minute to extend the Boilermakers lead to 6 with 4:46 left in the game.
Wisconsin showed in their last game that they cant stick around at the end, and did to an extent tonight. Back-to-back Zach Edey scores and some clutch buckets in the last two minutes sealed the deal for the Boilermakers.
There have been a few games where Edey has just been the better matchup against a team and Trevion Williams was in foul trouble or struggling and this was one of them. It did not matter who Greg Gard put on him, he was backing them down and scoring. Trevion did not have a bad game necessarily, putting up 9 points and 7 rebounds, but Edey was just too dominant to take out.
His patience and basketball IQ have grown so much in his time with the Boilermakers and it showed tonight. He dropped a game and career-high with 21 points on a sizzling 8-11 shooting night and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Another freshman, Jaden Ivey continued his tremendous play, posting 18 points in his own right. He also connected on 9-10 attempts from the free-throw line after coming into the contest as a 68% from the charity stripe. His emergence has been huge, especially when Sasha Stefanovic was battling back from COVID-19 and Brandon Newman having a little cold stretch of late.
The past two seasons have been tough for Aaron Wheeler with struggles and inconsistent playing time, but tonight was a completely different story. Wheeler scored a season-high 11 points, shooting a perfect 3-3 from behind the arc, and grabbed 6 rebounds for the game. That is exactly what Matt Painter and the team need out of Wheeler to push their ceiling even higher.
This was just an old-fashioned Big Ten basketball game that Purdue won tonight. For a young team, that is huge to pick up a win like that over a Top 25 Wisconsin team. Now, with Purdue already in the NCAA Tournament, this game boosts an already confident squad that is hitting its stride at the right time.
Another performance of note, Eric Hunter Jr is the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and it is not even close at this point. After going off for 29 against Illinois last week, D’mitrik Trice was held to just 10 points on 2-10 shooting from the floor by Purdue’s junior point guard. Just add Trice to the list of guys who have fallen victim to Hunter this season.
Purdue will look to build off of this win in their regular-season finale on Saturday against a struggling Indiana team. Coach Matt Painter will have them ready to rock, but this could be a trap game for the Boilermakers. It’s important they do not look past the Hoosiers ahead of the Big Ten Tournament.