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No. 5 Purdue heads to Wisconsin in a funk

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No. 5 Purdue will look to halt its late-season skid Thursday night when it takes on a Wisconsin team whose NCAA Tournament hopes are rapidly fading in a Big Ten clash in Madison, Wis.

Purdue (24-5, 13-5 Big Ten), ranked No. 1 three weeks ago, lost for the fourth time in six games, 79-71 to No. 15 Indiana on Saturday. However, the Boilermakers backed into at least a share of their 25th Big Ten title when Maryland beat Northwestern on Sunday.

Wisconsin (16-12, 8-10), a participant in 22 of the last 23 NCAA tourneys, is coming off a crushing 87-79 overtime loss at Michigan on Sunday. The Badgers overcame a 10-point, second-half deficit, only to see Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson hit a tying 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation. Wisconsin then shot 2-for-9 in overtime, including 1-for-6 beyond the arc.

Wisconsin could be without point guard Chucky Hepburn, who injured his right knee early in the second half against Michigan and did not return. His status is uncertain.

Against Indiana, 7-foot-4 Zach Edey had 26 points and 16 rebounds, but the Boilermakers were just 5 of 23 from 3-point range. In their four recent losses, Purdue is a combined 18 of 76 beyond the arc.

“A majority of our shots I thought were pretty good shots. If you’re going to just take him (Edey) out of the equation and double him, and then you’re going to get wide-open shots, you’ve got to step up and make them,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Tonight, we didn’t make them.”

Edey leads the nation in rebounding at 12.9 per game and is fifth in scoring at 22.3 points, shooting 61.2 percent, along with 66 blocked shots. Fletcher Loyer is the only other player in double figures at 11.8 points per game.

The Boilermakers average 73.4 points per game while allowing 62.2, and outrebound opponents by 11.4 per game, tops in the country. Purdue also averages 15.2 free throws per contest, compared with 7.7 by opponents.

Purdue outrebounded Indiana by 16 and also shot 21 more free throws than the Hoosiers.

“That is an unbelievable advantage and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Painter said.

Wisconsin, which has played 18 games decided by five points or fewer, has not won consecutive games since a six-game winning streak pushed them to No. 14 in the poll in early January. The Badgers are 5-10 since then.

“To battle back from 10, 12 down, whatever we were, in a hostile environment when your starting point guard goes down, there’s a lot of good things that happened today,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said after the Michigan game. “The last two seconds of regulation, or whatever, is not one of them. We’ve got to learn from that and not make those same miscues in crucial times.”

Freshman Connor Essegian, who had a career-high 24 points vs. Michigan, averages 12.1 per game, as does Hepburn. Steven Crowl averages 11.6 points and a team-high 7.1 boards. Forward Tyler Wahl, who missed three games in early January with an ankle injury, has 25 rebounds in the last two games.

Wisconsin swept Purdue last season, including 70-67 at Madison on Hepburn’s 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left that gave the Badgers a share of the Big Ten title. Edey had 41 points and 19 rebounds in the two games last season vs. Wisconsin.

–Field Level Media

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