D'Mitrik Trice photo

After a rough stretch of four games, D'Mitrik Trice has made 8 of 15 shots over the past two games.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — D’Mitrik Trice felt helpless.

All he could do was watch from the bench as the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team got shredded at Purdue two seasons ago. Trice was injured at the time, as was Kobe King, leaving the Badgers with a depleted backcourt.

The Boilermakers feasted on that weakness in a 78-50 victory, which remains the most lopsided defeat in Greg Gard’s 146 games as UW’s coach.

The Badgers committed turnovers in 12 of their first 25 possessions and finished the game with 20. Brad Davison had all seven of his by halftime, and Ethan Happ also finished the game with seven.

Purdue, ranked No. 3 in the nation, scored the first 12 points and led 18-2 before UW made its first field goal 7 minutes, 36 seconds into the game.

“It was very hard to watch,” Trice said, “because from the jump they were beating us pretty bad and I was just sitting there on the sidelines and couldn’t do anything about it.”

This time, Trice can make an impact when the Badgers (12-7, 5-3 Big Ten) visit Purdue (10-9, 3-5) to begin a key stretch of two road games in four days. After trying to record its first win at Mackey Arena since 2014, UW will play at No. 19 Iowa on Monday night.

This isn’t the same deep and experienced Purdue team that whipped the Badgers two years ago, the biggest difference being this group’s lack of firepower on offense. But the Boilers have held five of their opponents this season under 50 points and are No. 14 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.

“They get after your (butt),” UW assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft said. “They’re really, really tough. Their on-ball pressure is going to be as good as we’ve seen.”

Plus, there’s this: Mackey Arena is among the rowdiest venues in the Big Ten, if not the country, and the Boilers and their crowd figure to be particularly surly following a 79-62 home loss to No. 21 Illinois on Tuesday night. Afterward, Purdue coach Matt Painter lamented the fact the Fighting Illini showed more fight than his team did.

“They’re definitely going to come out with their hair on fire,” Trice said.

As UW’s point guard, it’ll be up to Trice to make sure the Boilermakers — and their crowd — don’t take the Badgers out of their comfort zone.

It’s been an up-and-down junior season for Trice, who is coming off his best all-around game. He finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in UW’s 82-68 victory over Nebraska on Tuesday.

Trice’s three turnovers — two poor decisions on passes, and a travel after he left his feet for a shot and changed his mind mid-air — were avoidable. Still, he hit some timely shots in the second half and helped run an offense that finished with a program-record 18 made 3-pointers.

While Trice tends to dribble too much at times, he and the Badgers kept the ball moving against Nebraska. The result was 23 assists on 29 made field goals.

Trice has faced his share of criticism during his junior season. His scoring is down from 11.6 to 9.0 points per game because his 3-point shooting percentage has fallen from 39.0 to 34.1.

But other numbers have gone up for Trice. He’s averaging 4.2 rebounds, up from 2.8 last season. His assists average has gone from 2.6 to 3.5 and his assist-to-turnover ratio is at a solid 2.1, a slight increase from his sophomore campaign (2.0).

Trice has made his biggest strides on defense, where’s been handed difficult assignments that include Marquette’s Markus Howard, Maryland’s Anthony Cowan Jr. and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston. Howard finished 6 of 21, Cowan didn’t make a shot while Trice was on him and Winston went 3 of 12.

“It’s a big task for him to be that good on the ball, get through so many ball screens or exert so much energy on the defensive end and then play as much as he does and do it offensively,” said UW assistant coach Dean Oliver, noting he’d like to see Trice make more of an impact in off-the-ball situations on defense. “It’s a big burden to have and he’s done a great job with it.”

The UW coaches have encouraged Trice to be aggressive on offense while still making good decisions. They’d like to see him get in the paint more frequently to create opportunities either for himself or his teammates. It’s notable Trice has gone four consecutive games without attempting a free throw.

As for the poor shooting stretches, it’s difficult to find an explanation. During a four-game stretch after UW returned to Big Ten play, Trice went 4 of 27 overall and 0 of 9 from 3-point range.

Trice has bounced back by 8 of 15 overall over the past two games, including 4 of 8 from beyond the arc.

“The biggest thing is just staying on course,” Trice said, “and staying confident.”

And blocking out the noise. Trice understands playing point guard means there’s a lot of responsibility on his shoulders — and criticism will be directed his way when UW struggles.

“Honestly, it’s just another day at the office for me,” he said. “I’ve been a quarterback and a point guard my whole life. It’s nothing new to me. I’ve always been in a position to lead and try to make everyone around me better.”

That’s what Trice will try to do at Purdue. This time, he won’t have to watch helplessly from the bench.


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