To say Bo Ryan has elevated the Wisconsin program since taking over as coach for the 2001-02 season would be an understatement.
He’s taken the fourth-ranked Badgers to the NCAA tournament in each of the last 13 years, is one away from setting the school mark for Big Ten coaching victories and has a record above .500 against nearly every conference foe.
The only opponent not on that list is Purdue, which visits the Kohl Center on Wednesday night looking to start 3-0 in conference play for the first time in four years.
Ryan took Wisconsin (14-1, 2-0) to the Final Four last season, and he has it rolling again. The Badgers have won seven straight since falling at home to current No. 2 Duke on Dec. 3 after routing Northwestern 81-58 on Sunday.
That tied Ryan for the Wisconsin record of 158 conference wins with Walter "Doc" Meanwell, who coached the program from 1911-34. In true Ryan fashion, he picked up the victory by adapting throughout the game.
Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker scored 16 points apiece as the Badgers hit a season-high 12 3-pointers on 25 attempts, almost toying with the Wildcats as they switched from a man-to-man defense to zone.
”There’s universal reads that I deal with because I’m old school that still work,” Ryan said. ”You can get shots if you stay true to your spacing, if you stay true to the game and how it really works. So people changing defenses has not been that big of an issue.”
Ryan has some depth to work with, as seven players are averaging at least 19 minutes. Dekker was inconsistent to start the season while playing through an ankle injury, but he’s averaging 15.7 points while shooting 59.3 percent over his last six.
"We have a multitude of guys putting shots in the bucket,” Dekker said. "I think that’s what’s cool about our team this year. We have a lot of guys that are confident to take those shots.”
Ryan is better than .500 against every Big Ten team he’s faced since arriving at Wisconsin – he hasn’t faced Maryland and is 2-0 against Rutgers, both conference newcomers – except for Purdue, against which he has a 10-10 mark.
The Badgers have won back-to-back meetings, including 76-70 at home March 5 in the most recent matchup as Kaminsky scored 22 points.
The Boilermakers (10-5, 2-0) allowed an average of 88.0 points during a three-game losing streak that included a disappointing 89-84 home defeat to Gardner-Webb, but they responded with a 72-68 win over Minnesota last Wednesday and Saturday’s 64-51 victory over Michigan to open Big Ten play.
Purdue hasn’t won its first three conference games since starting 4-0 in 2010-11. It also had lost 13 straight when trailing at halftime before winning the last two.
Freshman Vince Edwards finished with 16 points against the Wolverines, while A.J. Hammons added 15 and 12 rebounds. The Badgers know they’ll have a tough task ahead with Edwards, Hammons and 7-foot-2 freshman Isaac Haas making for an imposing front line.
"Tough defense, gritty," reserve forward Duje Dukan told the Badgers’ official website. "They’ll get into you (defensively)."
Wisconsin ranks fifth in the nation with 54.1 points allowed per game. Both teams are scoring 75.1 points.