MADISON – There is something about playing Purdue that makes Ryan Evans come out of his shell.
When the two teams met Feb. 1, Evans surprised the Boilermakers, and himself a little bit, with his 10-point performance that was punctuated with the go-ahead basket with 50 seconds remaining and a slam dunk in the final seconds to seal the victory.
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A little over two weeks later, Evans was at it again, both playing and speaking maturely.
Evans tried to be the catalyst for No. 10 Wisconsin on what is becoming a trend of an off night on the road. The sophomore from Phoenix scored eight of his 11 points after halftime and grabbed six rebounds in a college-high 28 minutes, one of the few bright spots in a 70-62 defeat Wednesday.
“We knew coming in to Purdue, it’s a tough team (and) tough to play here,” Evans said. “We knew they were going to come out strong and we didn’t quite match it.”
Wisconsin (19-6, 9-4 Big Ten) had found success of late getting production from unsuspecting sources, but Evans was the only role player that made any sort of a dent against a swarming Boilermakers defense that forced UW into three shot clock violations and eight turnovers.
Outside of Evans and leading scorers Jon Leuer (23 points on 10-for-18 shooting) and Jordan Taylor (15 points, 5-for-9), the other seven players that saw minutes combined to shoot 5-for-24 (20.8 percent).
“We weren’t able to knock down shots this game, but those will fall,” Evans said.
It was a tough loss for Wisconsin (19-6, 9-4 Big Ten) in terms of the conference race, as the Badgers now sit in third place, one game behind Purdue (21-5, 10-3) and three games behind Ohio State (25-1, 12-1). Despite that and including the victory Saturday over the Buckeyes, Evans believes the Badgers are getting more production from the bench and his team is peaking at the right time heading into March.
“You’ve always got to stay positive,” he said. “I’m a positive person. And you’ve got to be able to take the positive things out of a loss. I think we’re going to go back, we’re going to watch the film and we’re going to get on to the next game.
“And like I said, it’s all about peaking at the right time and we’ve got the tools to get some hardware this year. I really believe that.”
Wisconsin’s schedule sets up for a strong finish, as four of the Badgers’ final five games are against teams that have a .500 record or worse in the conference, including hosting Penn State (14-11, 7-7) on Sunday.