The Wisconsin Badgers put in a valiant effort but suffer another narrow loss, this time to Purdue

MADISON — Wisconsin teammates Tyler Wahl, Max Klesmit and Chucky Hepburn sat in the Kohl Center’s media room and stared at the table, probably looking at the stat sheets in front of them, trying to digest the recent close loss.

Their faces were filled with disappointment and frustration.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Wahl said after UW suffered a 63-61 loss to No. 5 Purdue on Thursday night. “Because we played well enough to win and we just didn’t make it.”

Needing a quality win to boost their NCAA tournament resume, the Badgers instead missed their last four field goal attempts in the last 3 minutes and 30 seconds – after Klesmit was in lane from a feed from Wahl for a 57- 56 lead – and saw Purdue hold on by hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the 1:45 final.

The Badgers missed another opportunity for a quality win and go into their regular-season finals Sunday in Minnesota down only 8-11 in the Big Ten and 16-13 overall.

The Gophers (8-20, 2-16) stunned visiting Rutgers, 75-74, on Thursday on Jamison Battles buzzer-hitting three-pointer.

BOX RESULT:Purdue 63, Wisconsin 61

“It feels like we’re right there,” said Klesmit, who scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half. “It’s just a few possessions.”

Thursday night’s result was decided by a handful of possessions.

Purdue led 58:57 thanks to two free throws by Zach Edey with 1:45 to go. The Badgers had a chance to take the lead after a time-out with 22 seconds on the shot clock and 36.4 seconds left in the game.

Klesmit drove on the right side of the lane, but missed a hard-fought shot.

“I was just trying to get to the rim, get in the paint and make a play,” he said. “I should have come to a two foot stop and controlled myself.

“But I went off one (foot) and missed it.”

That was UW’s last chance to take the lead until final possession.

Wisconsin forward Carter Gilmore (14) steals the ball away from Purdue center Zach Edey (15) in the first half Thursday night at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin forward Carter Gilmore (14) steals the ball away from Purdue center Zach Edey (15) in the first half Thursday night at the Kohl Center.

Purdue hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 21.5 seconds, including 1 of 2 by Ethan Morton by 4.4 seconds, for a 63-61 lead. Klesmit’s desperate three-point attempt on the buzzer was short-lived.

UW have played 19 games this season that were decided by five points or fewer or decided in overtime. The Badgers are 10-9 in these games.

Five of the Big Ten losses — Michigan State, Northwestern twice, Rutgers and Purdue — have totaled 12 points.

“The frustrating thing is that we’ve been in so many of those games,” said Klesmit.

A year after a three-point loss to UW at the Kohl Center, a win that gave the Badgers a share of the regular-season title, Purdue (25-5, 14-5) left for the overall championship title.

The Boilermakers got that when Michigan fell in two overtimes in Illinois.

“It comes down to a make or miss,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter. “We took a shot. They missed a shot. We’re winning. We feel great and they feel terrible…

“We’re a possession better than them. does it make us better No. It makes us a possession better.”

Hepburn, who missed Sunday’s final 20+ minutes in Michigan after apparently suffering a right knee injury, started against Purdue and contributed 13 points, two rebounds and an assist in 34 minutes.

Reserve guard Isaac Lindsey, who went into the night with 24 points in 18 games, scored eight points in the first half to keep UW within four points. Connor Essegian only played eight minutes due to foul problems in the first half. He finished with eight points.

Wahl (2 of 11) and Steven Crowl (1 of 5) scored just five and two points, respectively.

Zach Edey, 7ft 4 and 305 pounds, guarded pick for most of the game.

“We liked our matchup with Zach at Tyler Wahl,” Painter said. “We didn’t have to help too much there. We were worried about their three-point shooting.

“Our central defense did a pretty good job at Crowl and Wahl.”

Edey went into the night averaging 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, shooting 61.2%. He contributed nine points, seven rebounds and three assists in the first half to help Purdue take a 31-27 lead and finished with 17 points, 19 rebounds and three assists.

Freshman guards Fletcher Loyer (11.8 ppg) and Braden Smith (9.8 ppg, 4.3 apg) combined for 14 points in the first half and finished the tournament with 13 and nine points, respectively.

Purdue limited opponents to 30.6% three-point shooting and 41.6% shooting overall. The Badgers hit 5 of 11 three-pointers in the first half (45.5%) and had 10 of 24 overall (41.7%).

Purdue countered by outplaying UW 30-18 in the paint and winning the fight at the free throw line by hitting 11 of 18 tries on just 5 of 5 for UW and scoring 11 points from eight UW turnovers. The Boilermakers had nine points from six UW turnovers in the first half.

“Absolutely,” said UW coach Greg Gard of the importance of Boilermakers making UW sales. “In a low possession game, it becomes a struggle. If we can get our defense halfway, we’re pretty good. You can’t adjust your defense when throwing Pix-Sixes.

“Little things – one thing here, one thing there – in the aggregate they make a difference because we’ve been in so many of these games.”

Edey against choice

At 7-4 or 7-5, it’s difficult to hit backdowns and get to places where he’s efficient.

This is a tough guy to score over the top, to say the least.

Little things – one thing here, one thing there – how they add up make a difference because we’ve been in so many of these games.

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This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A late drought hands Badgers another crushing narrow defeat. The Wisconsin Badgers put in a valiant effort but suffer another narrow loss, this time to Purdue

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