JaJuan Johnson (20 points, 10 rebounds) and E'Twaun Moore (19 points) did what they normally do for Purdue, but the difference on Wednesday night was point guard Lewis Jackson.
Jackson, who scored just one point in the first meeting, scored 18 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers and was at the very least even with Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor.
"Offensively I thought he made good decisions the whole night," Coach Painter said of Jackson. "His ability to make good decisions and make that pull-up puts [opponents] in a bind." (quote courtesy of Purdue Athletics)
Taylor finished with 15 points while Jon Leuer led the Badgers with 23 points, but the struggles of fellow starters Keaton Nankivil (2-9 FG, five points) and Josh Gasser (1-7, three points) from the field conspired to keep the Badgers from winning their fifth straight game. Wisconsin was also a little to lax defensively, especially when it came to guarding Jackson. He was able to get into the lane on multiple occasions, either to knock down that short jumper of pass it off to an open teammate.
The junior's reached double figures in each of the three games following that loss in Madison, and if he can keep this current trend going the Boilermakers have an even better chance to do some special things. Next up is Ohio State at home in a perfect opportunity for Purdue to get back into the championship race in the Big Ten. Wisconsin closes out the regular season in Columbus, providing one more opportunity for the Badgers but they need more help as a result of Wednesday's defeat.
Other Notable Happenings
1. The November version of Kemba Walker was on display as UConn beat Georgetown.
Simply put Walker was sensational for the Huskies, accounting for 31 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in a 78-70 win over Georgetown. After shooting above 50% from the field in just one conference game the junior from the Bronx has done so in consecutive game, displaying the vast array of skills that captivated the nation earlier in the season. But an even more important development may be the recent play of Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, who finished with 23 points. The sophomore's scored 48 points in the last two games following 16 straight games in single digits (10 games of scoring five points or less).
It's tough to predict what freshmen will provide, and that's been evident with Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith this season. So the two sophomores, Coombs-McDaniel and Alex Oriakhi, will need to step up down the stretch if the Huskies are to improve upon their seeding. Wednesday night was also the first game of a rough stretch to end the regular season for Jim Calhoun's team, with a trip to Louisville for a game on Friday night next up. If Walker can continue to play as he has of late and the supporting cast gets it done, UConn's got a chance to not only survive the schedule but thrive.
2. Not so fast on Georgia being a lock to make the NCAA Tournament.
Mark Fox's team is still in decent shape with regards to an at-large bid, with the easiest reason being that somehow the selection committee needs to pick 37 teams to complete the field. But how successful can the Bulldogs be? Well, if they execute offensively like they did the final seven minutes of Wednesday's loss to Vanderbilt at home then the other tournament run by the NCAA (that would be the NIT) could come into play. Vanderbilt closed the game on a 24-3 run over the final 9:47 to win 64-56 in Athens, but more worrisome for Georgia could be their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor.
Guards Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware did combine to score 27 points, but with Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins being capable scorers it's just as important (if not more so) for those two to make sound decisions and set guys up. Georgia turned the ball over just nine times on the night, but too many challenged looks can be as costly as turnovers in close games. Next up on the schedule are games at Tennessee and Florida, followed by two games they can ill-afford to drop (South Carolina and LSU) and a game at Alabama to end the season. There shouldn't be serious concern unless Georgia drops one of those two home games, but they aren't in as good a position as they were a couple weeks ago.
3. Fairfield and Vermont become the first two teams to clinch postseason bids.
College basketball has its first two guaranteed postseason participants as Fairfield (MAAC) and Vermont (America East) clinched their respective league titles. Yorel Hawkins led three Stags in double figures with 14 points as Fairfield beat Marist 61-54 to wrap up their first outright MAAC title since the 1985-86 season. Derek Needham was the headliner coming into the season and while he hasn't disappointed the true star for Ed Cooley's team is their defense. Marist turned the ball over 17 times on the night, and Fairfield leads the MAAC in most of the major statistical categories defensively.
Defense has also been a key for Vermont, who won at Maine 73-57 behind 19 points from Evan Fjeld and 17 from Brendan Bald. Bald's also been the best individual defender for Mike Lonergan, and the Catamounts have won ten straight since moving freshman Sandro Carissimo into the starting lineup to shore up the defense. At the very least these two will take part in the NIT, but with Fairfield hosting the MAAC Tournament and the highest-seeded team hosting the America East final both teams could hear their names called on Selection Sunday.
Top Three Games
1. (11) Purdue 70, (10) Wisconsin 62
2. (12) Connecticut 78, (9) Georgetown 70
3. Loyola (IL) 67, UIC 66 A Courtney Stanley three-pointer as time expired gave the Ramblers a one-point win over their city rivals at UIC Pavilion. Geoff McCammon led Loyola with 23 points while Paul Carter's 19 led the Flames.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Kemba Walker (Connecticut) 31 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in the Huskies' 78-70 win over Georgetown.
2. F/C Kenneth Faried (Morehead State) 23 points and 15 rebounds in the Eagles' 76-68 overtime win at Eastern Kentucky.
3. F Nick Winbush (Miami-Ohio) 26 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in the RedHawks' 86-80 overtime win over Kent State. Teammate Julian Mavunga also posted a double-double with 17 points and 17 rebounds.