September 24, 2020
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first_imgKeaton Nankivil scored 25 points and hit 7 of 8 three-point attempts last time UW played at Mackey.[/media-credit]In the world of college basketball, there’s never enough time to bask in the euphoria of a win.The No. 10 Wisconsin men’s basketball team (19-5, 9-3) is forced to put the delight of upsetting then-No. 1 Ohio State at the Kohl Center as they hit the road to clash with No. 11 Purdue (20-5, 9-3) at the Mackey Arena.Including this game, both teams have five conference games remaining before the Big Ten Tournament. The winner will gain sole possession of second place and will stand two games behind first-place Ohio State.Back-to-back games against the Big Ten’s top two teams in the standings put Wisconsin in a precarious spot. With games against its top competition in matter of days this late in the season, the Badgers’ conference title hopes could have been significantly improved or dashed quickly.And after passing the first test, the Badgers need to ensure there’s no let down to keep their hopes alive.In a somewhat similar situation a year ago, Wisconsin visited UW-Green Bay on the heels of a 72-69 victory over No. 6 Duke at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin fell to the Phoenix four days later 88-84 in overtime.“The Duke game, can’t forget that, the fans stormed the court … but when we went up to Green Bay, their fans stormed the court when they beat us,” senior forward Jon Leuer said. “It was kind of like a reality check for us; it brought us back down to earth.”But after learning from that experience, Leuer and the rest of his teammates are hoping that the momentum from the Ohio State games carries over to this game, in one of the toughest environments to play.Wisconsin has won just twice in the Mackey Arena over the last 40 years.“We got to go into one of the toughest places in the country to play at Purdue and [against] a team that’s playing really well right now, so we kind of have to harness the energy we had from that crowd and that atmosphere and take it to West Lafayette,” Leuer said.The Boilermakers responded well after suffering their third conference loss of the season at the Kohl Center just over two weeks ago. Purdue knocked off Indiana and Illinois by a margin of 14 and 11 points, respectively.Meanwhile, Wisconsin dominated Michigan State at home, 82-56 and squeezed in an overtime victory at Iowa before playing Ohio State. The Badgers are currently on a four-game winning streak.In their last meeting, the two teams traded the lead 12 times in front of a loud audience in Madison. Wisconsin took control for good when sophomore forward Ryan Evans hit a jumper from the free throw line with 50 seconds remaining.Following the game, though, UW head coach Bo Ryan expressed disappointment with the way the team defended in the paint.Purdue scored 20 of 40 second-half points there, much of which came from forward JaJuan Johnson, the Big Ten’s leading scorer. 17 of Johnson’s 23 points came in the final period.Protecting the rim will be vital against the Boilermakers, but as UW associate head coach Greg Gard mentioned, stopping Johnson only begins at stopping him in the paint.“JaJuan is more polished offensively in terms of being able to face up and make some plays from there he’s really evolved from where he [began] as a freshman,” Gard said. “You didn’t have to guard him at the three-point line when he was a freshman or sophomore; now you do. You have to find him in transition, they use him in pick-and-pop situations, he’s a shot-blocker.”Johnson isn’t the only Boilermakers who can score, though. Guard E’Twaun Moore is seventh in the Big Ten in scoring during conference with 16.6 points per game He scored 15 last time he saw the Badgers.Wisconsin has a pair of top scorers as well. Junior guard Jordan Taylor is second with 20.8 ppg and is coming off an impressive showing against OSU, in which he scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half when UW marched back from a 15-point deficit.Leuer is fifth with 18.3 ppg and understands that even though Wisconsin will mark Moore and Johnson, they won’t be expected to slow down much.“Obviously those are two of the best players in the country, and they’ve proven that over their careers,” Leuer said. “You try to limit what they can do and limit JaJuan’s touches and make it tough for each one to score but they usually get there.”last_img read more