In a game that may come to define the Purdue Boilermakers this season, the Boilers went into the Kohl Center and controlled a matchup between the #6 ranked Wisconsin Badgers from start to finish. Holding the lead for just over 30 minutes of the entire game, Purdue was able to largely get what it wanted on offense while making the Badgers uncomfortable on defense outside of Tyler Wahl playing an amazing game in the post.
Let’s not waste a lot of time with small talk. Let’s get into ‘The Rebound!’
1 | Control the Tempo & Pace of the Game Early
Purdue really controlled the game from the tip to the end, even if Edey’s arm was held down to start and Purdue struggled to break the pressure at the end. It just seemed like, no matter the ups and downs of the game, Purdue had a poise and presence about them throughout the game where it didn’t ever seem like the game would ever get away from them. Purdue largely held a two possession lead throughout most of the entire game, only dipping to two points with 4:46 remaining before Purdue went on a quick 5-0 run to push the lead back to 7 points. Nothing in this game ever appeared to be put Purdue is doubt.
This video shows the composure that Purdue played with against Wisconsin. A coach, letting a sophomore guard make a correction to a set, and then letting them run it that way. Everything in that huddle is cool, calm, and collected.
Advice ➡️ Result— Purdue Men's Basketball (@BoilerBall) February 5, 2024
Get yourself a coach that listens. pic.twitter.com/r016QYgLhQ
Although the final moments of the game did appear to be a bit frantic and make Purdue uncomfortable, Wisconsin never was able to get within 5 points as Purdue seemingly made the plays that needed to be made. No matter what some Wisconsin media personality might say, the fouls that were committed (specifically to Braden Smith in the corner) were fouls and should have been called.
More so than any other statistic you could point to for Purdue victory, this is probably the biggest take away. Purdue just looked like the more talented and more poised team throughout that forty minutes. That type of confidence and poise will carry this team into March where things get ratcheted up on the intensity meter.
2 | Get on the Glass
Purdue once again dominated an area of the game where it can determine a number of different aspects throughout the game. Limiting possessions and second chance opportunities while also extending possessions by grabbing offensive rebounds for second chance points goes a long way to victories, especially when a team is on the road. Purdue at Wisconsin outrebounded the home team 42-29 and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. Those numbers led to Purdue having 21 second chance points while limiting Wisconsin to just 14 points on 10 offensive rebounds. Had it not been for Tyler Wahl having himself his best offensive games this season with 20 points and 6 offensive rebounds, Purdue likely would have won this game by 12 or more. Wahl’s career high is 23 which he achieved twice in 2022.
Outrebounding a solid team like Wisconsin is great but doing so by 13 and being on the road is even better. That’s one of those stats that Coach Painter likes to point to in terms of winning matchups that lead to winning games.
3 | Limit the Scoring from Guys Other Than AJ Storr
Well, I didn’t necessarily tag him for 20 points because he hasn’t been a big scorer for Wisconsin this season but limiting Storr to 14 points on 4-15 from the field and 0-4 behind the arc was amazing. It wasn’t like Storr was missing wide open shots either as Lance Jones, Cam Heide, and Ethan Morton all took turns at one point or another forcing him into tough jump shots. He did make his way into the lane at times but keeping him out of the lane and getting to the rim made all the difference for the Boilers in limiting Wisconsin from doing what they really wanted to do.
Purdue just did a heck of a job of funneling shooters into difficult spots and running them off the three point line as much as possible. At time, Purdue would leave their feet but it just didn’t seem like the Badgers were capable of putting the ball on the deck to take advantage of the Boilers with drives to the basket. A lot of that is likely due to a 7’4 menace roaming the middle of the floor but some of that is simply to Purdue following the defensive game plan.
Forcing Storr into 15 shots to get to 14 points, nearly 23% of the total shots the Badgers took was great. When you combine that with the entire defensive effort from the Boilers from start to finish, what you get is holding a team who had been averaging 78 points per game in their previous 9 games to 69 points.
And 1 | Get to the Foul Line and Make Your Free Throws
In the three games prior to Wisconsin, the Boilers had shot a poor 67% from the free throw line as a team. Just not a great percentage when they had shot nearly 73% in the games prior to that. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and including a 76% effort sandwiched in those three games. Against the Badgers, the Boilers were a very efficient and effective 18-23 for 78.3% from the free throw line. That type of percentage makes opponents pay dearly for playing too physical in an effort to stop Edey and the guards from getting to their spots. It’s one of the only ways you can really stop this offense beyond hoping they all have an off day.
Edey was a bit off again at the free throw with a 4-8 performance but there is little doubt that won’t get corrected in the five days the Boilers have off until their next game. Mason Gillis went 2-2, a second game in a row without a miss at the free throw line, to bump his average up to 87.5% on the season. If he had a high enough number to qualify for official stats in the B1G, his percentage would rank him third in the conference behind Jahmir Young (90.2%) and Marcus Domask (88.2%).
Purdue likely needed to get 15 points at the free throw line to win this game and they grabbed 18. When you add those factors up and throw in being efficient and effective at the charity stripe, you always stand a good chance at winning no matter what the opponent is doing.
Purdue: 76 (75)
Wisconsin: 74 (69)
What a heck of a ballgame, am I right? These are two of the best teams in the country and the matchup was great with good offense, great defense, and a crowd that was engaged from start to finish (although the ‘F*** Zach Edey’ chants were a but confusing). Purdue just seemed like the team that was more in control of their emotions and poise is what you need in big time environments for big time games.
Overall Grade: A
That was an absolute masterclass in how to go into a hostile environment against a top rated team in the country and get a victory. Balance on offense, stout on defense, and limiting bad turnovers and second chance points. If Purdue plays that way the rest of the season, it’ll end in an updated video board message from Gene Keady and another #1 seed.
Player of the Game: Lance Jones
Jones’ spark he has brought to Purdue has been evident from day one but it has tended to shine brightest when Purdue needs him the most. Jones has an affinity for the big shot, so much so that Braden Smith had this to say after the game:
"He's definitely got some nuts on him. He can take crazy shots and they go in. It's a huge blessing to have him because he can also distribute and make plays for himself and make plays for others. When he's confident it makes the whole team better."— Exponent Sports Desk (@Exponent_Sports) February 4, 2024
-Braden Smith on Lance Jones
Jones had 20 points on 8-14 shooting with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 0 turnovers. The transfer guard is proving that he is as valuable a piece to the Purdue puzzle as any other, mainly because he may have been the missing puzzle piece to a Purdue Final Four.
Play of the Game:
With just over a minute left in the game and Purdue holding a 66-61 lead, Connor Essegian took a wildly deep three that found its way into the hands of Tyler Wahl who had been the lone scoring threat for the Badgers late in the game. As he started to go into a set of post moves, Braden Smith swooped in and swiped the ball away until it found its way to Lance Jones. As Jones looked up and saw an open path to the bucket, he went coast to coast and scored to put the Boilers up 7. It was Jones’ final points on his way to a team leading 20.