Madison, WI – Led by seniors Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson, No. 4- ranked Wisconsin defeated the Purdue Boilermakers, 62-55 on Wednesday night for Bo Ryan’s 159th conference victory, most in the history of Badger basketball.
“Players, coaches, officials–we’ll all sleep well tonight,” said Ryan. “There was a lot of energy out there on the court.”
Kaminsky continued his stellar play this season by leading the Badgers with 21 points. A seven-footer as comfortable facing the basket as he is posting up on the low block, Kaminsky repeatedly beat defenders off the dribble in attacking the rim. He brought the sellout crowd to its feet in the first half when he used his nimble footwork to step around a Boilermaker in the low post to steal a pass, race down court with the dribble and finish with his left hand at the rim.
Kaminsky’s skill set stresses the defense and Purdue had little recourse at times than to foul. Not only did Kaminsky lead the Badgers by making 11-of-14 free throws, his 14 attempts were twice as many free throws as Purdue attempted.
“This game was lost at the free throw line,” said Purdue Coach Matt Painter, who saw his team shoot 24 fewer free throws than the Badgers. “They have quickness at every position. With Kaminsky, we wanted to keep him in front of us and take him out of his rhythm. Touch fouls were called on the perimeter and it was a blood bath inside. We didn’t do a good job adjusting.”
With two seven-footers of his own to throw at Kaminsky, Painter elected to guard the Badgers’ center with 6-7 forward Vince Edwards, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week, and assign his centers to cover Wisconsin power forward Nigel Hayes. “We put our four on him (Kaminsky) and tried to knock him out of the post the best we could.”
Meanwhile, Kaminsky spent most of the first half banging with Purdue big men Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons on the defensive end of the court. Haas and Hammonds both put up 11 points scoring mostly with right hand shots over their left shoulders out of mid and low post set-ups. “I never think of it as this guy against that guy,” said Ryan. “We made them work hard and Frank held his own.”
Known mostly for his defensive prowess that has earned him a place on the 2012 and 2014 all-Big Ten Defensive Teams, Gasser made timely contributions to the Badgers’ offense scoring 15 points. He made two of four shots from distance, one from behind the imaginary NBA three-point line. “Having Frank (Kaminsky) on our team gives us all a chance to make plays,” said Gasser, referencing the amount of defensive attention the Wisconsin center typically attracts from opponents. An 89 percent shooter from the foul line coming into the game, Gasser made 5-of-6, two with 31 seconds left in the game to increase the Badgers’ lead to a game-high seven points.
Jackson, son of former Ohio State and NBA star Jim Jackson, picked up his game in the second half to help silence the Purdue comeback. A left-handed shooter with a strong drive game and nice step back move to create space for his midrange jump shot, Jackson scored 11 of his 13 points in the last 20 minutes. “Being aggressive in the second half was key,” said Jackson. “We stayed aggressive with our cuts and some things opened up for us.” Jackson tied for team honors with two assists. Though a modest number of assists by point guard standards, both assists came when he found Gasser with point-on passes in the paint for lay-ups.
“Kind of nice to have two senior guards,” said Ryan. “Traevon and Josh are tough seniors who’ve seen a lot over the years.”
Coming into the game scoring at almost a 16 point per game clip the last six games, Wisconsin wing Sam Dekker was held to six points. Two points came on a follow-up, one-handed slam dunk that not only excited the Wisconsin faithful, it also represented his 1,000th point in a Badgers’ uniform. “I think it’s pretty cool,” said Dekker of achieving the milestone. “I want to thank my teammates. I’m grateful to be in this position.”
Purdue brought an undefeated conference record of its own into the game having rallied to beat Minnesota and Michigan in its first two Big Ten contests. “I thought we had a good effort tonight and were ready to play,” said Painter. “If you’re going to beat a Bo Ryan team, you have to beat him at his game. I thought we were in a position to do it.”
A number of statistics lined up in Purdue’s favor. The Boilermakers scored 25 field goals to only 17 for Wisconsin, and their 26 rebounds were five more than the Badgers. But getting outscored 25-3 at the free throw line proved to be too much of an obstacle for Purdue to overcome.
Haas and Hammons received scoring help from senior Jon Octeus, a springy attack guard who did most of his scoring at the rim. Converting on 7-of-9 field goals, Octeus, a fifth-year senior finishing up a D-1 career he started at Colorado State, finished with a team-high 15 points and helped on the backboards with a team-high eight rebounds. “Jon really competed and rebounded the ball well,” said Painter. “He’s been great for us.”
Meanwhile, Ryan was reflective in commenting on his record-setting win that vaulted him past Walter (Doc) Meanwell as the winningest Big Ten coach in Wisconsin history. “When I first got here in the 1970s, I met some people who knew him (Meanwell),” said Ryan. “He was an interesting guy from what I could gather. He’s was called ‘Doc’ for a reason. (Grinning) I’m not called ‘Doc.’ I’d like to keep it going for our guys.”
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