March 6, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana
Season record: 20-11 (12-6 Big Ten)
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Interim coach Greg Gard had one thought running through his head as his University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team and Purdue lit up the scoreboard in the first half Sunday night at Mackey Arena.
“I thought there for a while,” Gard said, “the first team to play defense was going to win.”
Unfortunately for Gard and the Badgers, they never did answer the call on that end of the court.
The result was a 91-80 loss to No. 15 Purdue in the regular-season finale for both teams, a defeat that cost the Badgers a double-bye in the Big Ten Conference tournament.
Junior forward Nigel Hayes scored a game-high 30 points as UW finished in a four-way tie for third place in the Big Ten. Once the tiebreaker was sorted out, the Badgers (20-11, 12-6 Big Ten) ended up as the No. 6 seed and will play either Nebraska or Rutgers on Thursday.
It’s the first time since 2000 that UW will play a game before the quarterfinal round.
The Badgers will enter the postseason coming off what was statistically their worst defensive effort of the season.
Purdue (24-7, 12-6) shot 62.2 percent overall and 52.6 percent from 3-point range to score the most points by a UW opponent since Ohio State posted 93 during the 2010-11 regular-season finale.
The Boilermakers’ gaudy numbers left Badgers junior point guard Bronson Koenig shaking his head. “It seemed like everyone was hitting shots today,” he said.