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Mackey Arena continues to be house of horrors for Badgers basketball

Wisconsin continued its struggles at Mackey Arena, getting blown out by Purdue to extend its losing streak three-straight.

Mackey Arena has been a house of horrors for the Wisconsin Badgers basketball program. Mix in a down year for the Badgers and one of the best Purdue teams in decades and you get a 78-50 no-doubter by the No. 3 team in the nation.

Vince and Carsen Edwards nearly did the Badgers in alone, as the two reached over the 20-point mark respectively and combined for 41 points in the win.

Wisconsin was done from the opening tip on though, as Purdue ripped off a 12-0 start to the game before a pair of Nate Reuvers free throws broke Wisconsin’s early scoreless streak. However, it didn’t get much better as Purdue lead by as many as 21 points in the first half.

Purdue was up 32-11 with 4:32 left in the first half, but the Badgers did battle back (sort of) to go in to the half on an 11-7 run to make it a 39-22 Boilermakers lead at the half.

Ethan Happ struggled in the first half, but tried to put the team on his back. He finished the game with a team-high 15 points and had six rebounds and seven assists. But, he also finished with seven turnovers and it set a bad tone for the Badgers.

Wisconsin turned the ball over 20 times and never got themselves in the game because they couldn’t sustain anything thanks to said turnovers.

The loss drops the Badgers to a woeful 18-71 against Purdue in West Lafayette and drops them under .500 on the season (9-10, 2-4 B1G). UW will look to get back to winning ways after three-straight losses on the road and will come back to the Kohl Center to take on Illinois on Jan. 19 at 6pm on FS1.

 

Badgers hold Haas, Matthias down, still can’t win

If you would’ve told me that Isaac Haas and Dakota Mathias would be held to a combined 4 points, I would’ve told you the Badgers were going to at least be in the conversation to win this game. The two came in averaging 28.1 points combined, but each managed just two points in this one.

Rather than that being a good sign for the Badgers, UW forgot about defending the rest of the Boilermakers and the results were just awful.

Wisconsin couldn’t find a way to figure out curls or screen and rolls by anyone else, especially backup big man Matt Haarms. The Dutch product came off the bench and dominated UW’s defense for 10 points in 18 minutes played.

Ethan Happ was no help and trailing players were simply not long enough to deal with Haarms or either of the cutting Edwards’ for the Boilermakers. As much as people want to harp on the offensive side of the ball, Wisconsin’s inability to do the fundamental things on defense is really what’s killing this team.

That was certainly on full display in this one for Wisconsin.

Purdue was more aggressive on both ends

Wisconsin’s youngsters would do well to put the tape of this game on over and over again the rest of this week. No, not because it’s a painful reminder of how pathetic they looked, but as a reminder of what being aggressive does for a team.

Purdue played physical, strong and confident basketball from the start and it showed on both ends.

Excuses are running thin for Gard and Co.

Simply put, this loss was as embarrassing as the Big Ten opener against Ohio State and one could argue that Greg Gard hasn’t figured any way to motivate

One positive is that Gard seems not to be giving up on this team. According to the ESPN broadcast he could be heard clear as day . Ethan Happ came out motivated and tried his level best to get this team back in the game, but had little help in that effort.

Some of it could be down to lack of depth in the backcourt, with two of four main players down. Some of it can be chalked up to Brad Davison not being able to use one arm for most things. Some of it can be chalked up to a junior class that is producing nothing.

But, the sad part is the last part — Gard was responsible for bringing all of Brevin Pritzl, and Charlie Thomas. None of them are consistent scorers and none of them can be counted on to help Happ on a nightly basis.

Missing on this class is hurting the team as we’ve previously talked about, and the lack of development is on Gard and the players too. It’s one thing to see one or two of a five-man class not work out, but all five?

Iverson and Pritzl have shown promise at times this season, but they are the best this class has had to offer and they are role players at best on a team that needs them to be stars.

If there was a bright spot in this game it was the play of freshman Nathan Reuvers. He looked confident while shooting from deep and never gave up on the game despite the feeling that it was over from the get-go. Yet,

Not only did he have 8 of Wisconsin’s 22 points in the first half alone, he found himself unafraid to get physical with bigger players like Isaac Haas on the other end of the court. But, it appeared that Gard was never comfortable with Happ and Reuvers on the court at the same time.

Sure, Happ wasn’t on target in the first half, but he was playing well with Reuvers at times and allowed the freshman some open looks from beyond the arc. Instead of figuring out how to pair those two, Reuvers was hardly seen down the stretch when he could’ve been used the most.

Gard needs to figure out how to pair Happ and Reuvers to his advantage and he needs to find a way to get the guys to hustle the way Purdue did. It was like watching a team of athletes against a team stuck in mud all night long.

Wisconsin’s turnovers were only compounded by an inability to get back on basketball, something that few teams before it since Dick Bennett came to town struggled with.

All of those things add up to a coach who is running out of time and desperate for answers. Does he have them in the offseason? At this point that is what the rest of this season is about — showing how this team can grow and learn from this bad year and move forward.

If he can, this will be a blip on the radar. If he can’t, it’s huge trouble for a proud program and Gard is in some serious trouble himself.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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