MADISON — This was not a repeat of a 28-point blowout. No sir.
With former Wisconsin Badgers in the house to celebrate one of their all-time great players, UW played a full 40 minutes and did not break when one of the conference’s best teams started its most convincing run in the second half.
The performance given resulted in a 57–53 Wisconsin win over the No. 6 Purdue Boilermakers on Thursday evening inside the Kohl Center.
Redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ once again led Wisconsin (12–16, 5–10 Big Ten) with 21 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late in the game. True freshman guard Brad Davison converted on five of nine shots, two of four from three-point range, along with hitting all four free-throw attempts for 16 points.
Guard Carsen Edwards scored a game-high 22 points for Purdue (23–5, 12–3), which dropped its third straight conference game. Happ, true freshman Nate Reuvers, and Wisconsin contained big man Isaac Haas to 12 points and 11 rebounds.
It was the first win for Wisconsin over a ranked program this season, in a game where energy was flowing throughout the Kohl Center. UW honored 2015 consensus National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky both before the game and during halftime, hanging his No. 44 jersey high in the arena rafters with former teammates Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, and Zak Showalter, among many others, in attendance.
After being tied at halftime 21–21 with both teams shooting poorly (Wisconsin 30 percent, Purdue 36 percent), both battled for the first 10 minutes of the second half with ties and some small lead changes. UW started to pull ahead after an Aleem Ford three to make it 30–29 at the 14:23 mark.
Purdue broke through after Wisconsin’s next bucket, a Davison jumper with 12:32 remaining, and went on a 10–0 run. That allowed the Badgers to grab a 39–32 lead with 9:37 remaining.
In that span, Nojel Eastern converted two and-one opportunities, scoring six of his seven points in that span. The Badgers went 0-for-2 shooting while committing two turnovers to put them in the hole.
Wisconsin folded against the likes of Nebraska earlier this season in the final 10 minutes of a 74–63 home loss, but Greg Gard’s squad faced similar adversity Thursday night and instead clawed back.
In a two minute, 24 second span, Wisconsin went on a 10–0 run to take the lead at 47–43 with 3:38 remaining after Happ’s jumper. Khalil Iverson’s thunderous dunk tied the game at 43–43, with Davison’s two free throws giving the Badgers the lead.
Purdue brought it to within one point at 47–46 after Haas made one of two free throws with just over three minutes remaining. The big man missed two of his four attempts from the charity stripe in the final three-plus minutes.
That was the closest Wisconsin would allow Purdue to get, though Matt Painter’s team initiated a “Hack-a-Happ” strategy to try to keep the game within a one and two-possession game late.
Happ scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, including nine in the final 5:31. However, the all-conference player converted on only three of eight free throws on the evening and missed two with 1:29 remaining—this after key block by Iverson on a three-point attempt by Carsen Edwards. Purdue was still within four points in a 51–47 game.
Vincent Edwards (10 points, six rebounds) brought the game within one possession with a layup to make it 51–49 with 1:09 left.
Again, Purdue fouled Happ to send him to the foul line. He connected on the first of two, and after a missed three-pointer by Dakota Mathias on the ensuing Boilermaker possession, found himself there again after a Haas foul.
This time, Happ nailed both to give Wisconsin a 54–49 lead with 26 seconds remaining.
Those would be the last scoring opportunities for Happ on the evening, as he fouled out after a late whistle on Carsen Edwards’s three-point attempt.
The Badgers faced the final 21 seconds without their All-American forward.
And yet, they did not falter.
With Edwards hitting on two of the three free throws, Purdue then fouled redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl, who hit two free throws to extend the lead again to five.
With Priztl fouled again and making one of two to seal the game, Haas’s tip-in with two seconds remaining would not be enough as the Wisconsin faithful exploded at the buzzer.
In that second half, Wisconsin shot 52.4 percent from the field compared to Purdue’s 43.5 percent, and the Badgers were able to get away with shooting only 4-of-21 from three-point range for the game at home against their top-10 opponent.
That’s because Purdue shot only 39.6 percent on the evening, including 23.5 percent (4-of-17) from deep. The Boilermakers also committed 13 turnovers on the evening, compared to the Badgers’ nine.
After a season of tough losses—some close, some blowouts—Wisconsin persevered against one of the Big Ten’s best teams and in front of some former Badger greats. Students stormed the court in what will, in all likelihood, go down as the team’s best performance of the season.