On Sunday evening, two of the Big Ten’s elite squared off as the No. 20 ranked Purdue Boilermakers took on the No. 13 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in West Lafayette, Indiana. Expectations were high in what was one of, if not the most anticipated Big Ten conference matchup this season.
The game quickly fell into a back-and-fourth battle between the two teams, as the lead changed eight times in the first period. Purdue would enter halftime up, 29-23, behind a 9-point, 5-rebound showing from their star Forward, Caleb Swanigan.
As the second half fell underway, Purdue refused to let off the gas. They would hold onto the lead throughout the entire second half, with their largest lead being 17 points. Purdue capitalized on Wisconsin’s inconsistency as they picked up their third conference win of the season, 66-55.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned:
1. Caleb Swanigan Is A National Player of the Year Candidate
If for some strange reason, you had any doubts about Caleb Swanigan’s ability to impact a game coming into this matchup, your uncertainties have been put to rest. Swanigan picked up his eighth straight double-double this season as he led his team to victory behind is 18-point, 13-rebound performance. His ability to spread the floor has troubled opponents this season. Whether it be in the paint or on the perimeter, Swanigan can produce. In Sunday’s win he went 2-for-2 behind the arc while connecting on seven of his ten shot attempts. If all of that wasn’t enough, Swanigan also managed to dish out two assists.
Coming into this matchup, Swanigan led the Big Ten in rebounding, averaging 12.9 rebounds per game. He is the only Big Ten player to average ten-or-more rebounds so far this season. Swanigan has a total of 206 rebounds this year, with the next player’s highest total coming in at 141 rebounds. Swanigan and Blake Griffin are the only two major conference players with back-to-back 20-point, 20-rebound games in the last twenty seasons. He is also third in Big Ten scoring, with 18.3 points per game, averaging a double-double so far this year. If Purdue continues to win behind his dominate play, expect Swanigan to be a very serious National Player of the Year candidate.
2. Wisconsin Must Improve Their Perimeter Play
Whether it was defending the perimeter, or knocking down a three on offense, Wisconsin’s game struggled from beyond the arc. They were able to connect on just two of their fourteen 3-point attempts in the loss. It was not the amount of 3-point attempts that hurt Wisconsin, but rather their inability to convert. Bronson Koenig was one of two players to knock down a three in the game on 1-for-4 perimeter shooting. Star forward Nigel Hayes, failed to convert on either one of his two 3-point attempts. If Wisconsin wants to stay in these tough battles, they must convert on the perimeter.
While Wisconsin is eighth in the Big Ten for 3-point field goal percentage, they are also eleventh in the conference for defending the three. Wisconsin allowed Purdue to connect on seven of their fifteen three-pointers, as Purdue shot 47 percent from beyond the arc. One reoccurring problem for the Badgers has been their inability to stay grounded. They consistently fall for the pump fake. In order to prevent the conversion of perimeter shots, Wisconsin must stay disciplined on defense.
3. Purdue Is Not A One Man Team
While Caleb Swanigan is the leader of the team, his teammates can also step up. Purdue’s win over Wisconsin displayed a collective effort between the team, as five players scored eight or more points on the night. Isaac Haas, an intimidating presence in the paint at 7’2”, was able to contribute 13 points and five boards in the win, proving his dominance down low. P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline each added nine points. Purdue was able to shoot 52 percent from the field, sinking twenty-four of their forty-six shot attempts. If this team continues to acknowledge their roles with Swanigan leading the way, expect them to rack up a slew of big-time wins.
The Purdue Boilermakers will look to build of this win against Peter Jok, and the Iowa Hawkeyes, as Wisconsin hopes to fix their perimeter play against Ohio State. These two teams contain some of the best talent in the country, and both have many wins in their future.