The Wisconsin Badgers (13-3, 2-1) suffered their first loss of the Big Ten season on Sunday in West Lafayette, as they were down by the Fighting Caleb Swanigans, 66-55. Here are the biggest takeaways from a tough fought loss.
Ethan “Mr. Everything” Happ…
In a highly-anticipated matchup against fellow Big Ten heavyweight Purdue, the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers flat out did not look like the 13th best team in the country – maybe not even top 20. One of the few players that really showed up for the Badgers, per usual, was Ethan Happ. Happ did not shoot as well as he usually does, posting a human-like 44% from the field today (7/16), but led the team in points, rebounds and assists with 17, five and four. If that’s not enough, Happ went up against one of the best players in the country both ways in Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan, but still registered a block and a whopping six steals, which is especially incredible for a post player. Wisconsin still has a very good record at 13-3, but has struggled in the team’s three biggest games – at least Mr. Happ produced at Purdue in this nationally-televised contest.
…But Happ Needs Help
In an observation very much related to that of Ethan Happ doing it all, the Badgers desperately need someone else to consistently step up. If Wisconsin would have won today, they would have beaten arguably their two biggest threats to a Big Ten crown, in Indiana and Purdue, back to back on the road. This is certainly a tough task, but also a doable one for such an experienced and talented Badgers team. Wisconsin has the talent, and has even shown flashes of depth and overall great team play, but they have not been consistent. Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Nigel Hayes really struggled against Purdue, shooting just 4/12 from the field for 10 points. On the other hand, senior leader Bronson Koenig shot just 3/8 from the field (1/4 from deep) for nine points, and had one of the team’s lowest plus/minus numbers at -8. It is still very early in the season, but the Badgers’ senior stars in Koenig and Hayes have to step up consistently, and some bench contributions would also be very beneficial for this team; they put up just 12 points as a group at Mackey Arena.
Turnovers Remain a Positive
The Wisconsin Badgers basketball program is known for efficient play, tough defense and low turnovers. On a more positive note, the team was +9 in turnovers against the Boilermakers, with Wisconsin having nine and Purdue turning it over 18 times. This is huge for Wisconsin, especially as the season and competition continue to heat up. That being said, the Badgers can’t let those opportunities go to waste. The team shot 39% from the field at Purdue, which will not win a team very many games, especially against tough opponents on the road. It is essential to keep in mind that the Boilermakers are a very solid, well-coached team, and it is still early in the Big Ten season, but if Wisconsin wants to accomplish all of their goals including a Big Ten Championship, they must take care of the ball, keep forcing turnovers, and most importantly, make them count.
Wisconsin will take on Ohio State (10-6, 0-3) in the Kohl Center on Thursday, January 12th at 6 p.m. CT.