January 29, 2010

Good, bad and ugly from Purdue loss

Thursday's thrilling contest in West Lafayette will undoubtedly go down as one of the more scintillating games in the Big Ten conference this season. Unfortunately, in a game that went back and forth and saw a few separate momentum swings, someone had to lose. And unfortunately for Badger fans, that team was Wisconsin.

Now, with a couple of days to reflect on the loss and before the focus shifts to Michigan State, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look back at the good, bad and ugly from the Badgers loss to Purdue.

THE GOOD:

Keaton Nankivil:

What can you say about a player that shoots 1-of-7 from downtown in last week's win over Michigan and fires back with a 7-of-8 performance from distance against one of the Big Ten's best en route to a career high 25 points? The answer is simple.

Nankivil, though he has yet to fully assert himself in the paint, consistently shows a solid knack for fighting through shooting slumps. His shooting confidence doesn't seem to waver much on a game-by-game basis and he has shown flashes of becoming a reliable scorer with Jon Leuer sidelined with a wrist injury.

Over the past two games, Nankivil has poured in a team high 42 points on 16-of-23 shooting from the field. Coinciding with those efficient scoring tallies, Nankivil has also ripped down 13 rebounds, blocked three shots and recorded five steals.

And it can easily be said that without Nankivil Purdue would have blown out the Badgers on Thursday. If you cast Nankivil's 9-of-14 shooting aside, the rest of the team only hit 11-of-36 from the field. While that didn't offer the Badger junior much support, chances are Nankivil wouldn't have been as open as he was if it weren't for the attention the Badger guards created.

Nankivil still had to hit the shots, but chances are he wouldn't have had so many open looks if the Boilermakers weren't as concerned with the potential penetration players like Trevon Hughes and Jordan Taylor are capable of.

At the end of the night, it's a shame that Nankivil's two most impressive shooting displays have come in losing efforts. Last year at home against Purdue, Nankivil hit five threes and lost. On Thursday he hit seven and lost. I guess that means next year Nankivil will hit nine threes if the pattern stays true.

Guards protecting the ball:

Taylor chipped in 13 points and a huge steal down the stretch and Hughes added nine points of his own that helped the Badgers get back into the game. But that wasn't the only way they contributed.

As is becoming a major trend with the Badger guards, assists have been coming at a greater consistency than turnovers. Against Purdue, Hughes and Taylor combined for nine assists to only two turnovers. Taylor, who is third in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, dished five with only one assist.

UW did eventually turn the ball over nine times, but that was still below its season average of 9.5 and it gave the Badgers a chance to steal a win in a place it has historically struggled.

THE BAD:

-Hughes' struggles from the line:

During a long Big Ten schedule there are going to be games where a team's best player and unquestioned leader will struggle to shoot the ball to the best of his ability. That's fine and understandable.

At the same time, no matter how off you are from the floor, shooting from the charity stripe should become automatic. However, as much as Hughes struggled from the field, it was amplified that much more from the line.

By the end of the game, the senior guard hit only three of his eight attempts from the line. In a close game, the chances of those misses hurting are ratcheted up greatly. It looked as though Hughes was unable to get his legs into the shots as much as he would have liked.

While it's hard to blame the loss on one thing, and even harder to expect anybody to make all their looks at the stripe, there is no question those misses have and probably still are haunting Hughes.

UW shooting outside of Nankivil:

As mentioned earlier, outside of Nankivil, the rest of the team shot a miserable 11-of-36 from the field. That's 31 percent. And an ugly 31 percent at that. Jason Bohannon only took five shots and connected on only one of those five. Hughes went 3-for-11, Taylor went 4-for-12 and Tim Jarmusz, Ryan Evans and Rob Wilson combined to go 2-for-7.

Had any one of those players truly been able to hit shots at a consistent rate to compliment the surge from Nankivil, UW probably would have walked out of Mackey with a rare win. Instead, it suffered a heartbreaking loss and dropped three games back from conference leading Michigan State.

THE UGLY:

Usually I don't talk about the officiating because I don't like to blame the result of a game on the hands of somebody that isn't even competing. But when they missed that blatantly obvious foul on Hughes at the end of the game, something needed to be said.

At first it seemed a bit odd that Hughes would pull up for three and miss it four feet short and off to the left. He's not that erratic of a shooter and has proven to be clutch in the past. So the situation would not have pressured him into missing so badly.

When ESPN showed the replay it was painfully obvious that Robbie Hummel hit Hughes' arm as he was about to release, limiting his follow through. I'm sure that is a call that would be made 99 out of 100 times. The refs just happened to miss it.

Look, I know there were a bunch of calls in the second half and the officiating was relatively inconsistent from the first half into the second, but that is one that needs to be called. Who knows what would have happened after that, and I know UW retained possession and still had a shot to claim victory, but that should have been called and Hughes should have had three shots to get UW tied or put them ahead in the waning moments.

It was too obvious for a no call.

Defending the pick and roll:

It seemed for the final 10 minutes of the game that all Purdue was doing was running that pick and roll for E'Twaun Moore. And to their credit, it worked really well. If it isn't broke, don't fix it. And if it gets you points on a consistent basis, don't go away from it.

But if you're UW, how do you not figure out a way to stop it. By the time Moore hit the game-winning runner, it was about the 100th time Purdue had shown the play. One would think that UW would have figured it out by then. But it wasn't meant to be.

Nankivil failed to show and hedge and Moore scooted in for the eight-foot runner. Granted, had Nankivil hedged, Moore probably would have just lobbed it to the rim and left the rest for JaJuan Johnson to finish, but in that situation, with the game on the line, someone has to step up and alter Moore's shot.

It was just too easy.

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