We know the middle of the Big Ten is wide open, but what about the top?
Wisconsin entered as the consensus favorite, undefeated in its first two conference games, but perhaps Purdue belongs at the forefront of the conversation after the Boilermakers lit up the Badgers on Sunday afternoon at Mackey.
Purdue shot the lights out to the tune of 52.2 percent as Wisconsin struggled offensively in a 66-55 game, one that saw a dominant performance from Caleb Swanigan. The Boilers' big man scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, doing it all with his 14th double-double of the season. He's posted a double-double in each of his last eight games.
The Badgers' rough offensive afternoon started early. They shot just 34.5 percent from the field and went through an ugly scoreless stretch that lasted nearly six minutes. The Badgers got just one basket — a Khalil Iverson dunk — during a nearly nine-minute stretch and ended the first half without a 3-pointer, 0-for-6 as a team. But Purdue couldn’t do too much to capitalize in the first half. The Boilers shot a stellar 52.6 percent and got a couple big 3s from Dakota Mathias, one that put them up 10 with under four minutes until halftime. But Purdue turned the ball over a whopping 11 times over the first 20 minutes, leading directly to seven Wisconsin points.
The Badgers kept it close enough in the opening stages of the second half and had an opportunity to close within a possession when the game turned around. A Boilers turnover led to a breakaway for Wisconsin guard D'Mitrik Trice, but he was caught too far under the basket and blew the fast-break layup. Purdue's P.J. Thompson went down and splashed in a 3-pointer to turn a four-point lead into a seven-point lead and kick off a 12-0 run that featured seven straight points from Ryan Cline.
Simultaneously, the Badgers went on another long scoring drought, more than four minutes without a point and almost five minutes without a made basket. Wisconsin couldn't close within single digits again, Purdue's 16-point advantage created by the 12-0 run hitting a game-high 17 en route to an 11-point victory.
The Badgers fared much better shooting the ball in the second half but still finished with a low 39-percent mark on the game. Bronson Koenig was pretty much nowhere to be found, scoring just nine points. Ethan Happ had a team-high 17 points and had a whopping six steals but struggled at times against Purdue seven-footer Isaac Haas. Nigel Hayes scored 10 points for the Badgers.
Swanigan led the way for the Boilers with his big day, and Haas was also in double figures with 13 points.
The win sent Purdue to 14-3 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. The Boilers next travel to play Iowa on Thursday.
The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for Wisconsin and dropped its record to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference. The Badgers take on Ohio State on Thursday.