MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin defeated No. 6 Purdue 57-53 on Thursday night at the Kohl Center in the team’s most significant victory of the season. The Badgers improved to 12-16 overall and 5-10 in Big Ten play, as fans stormed the court to celebrate in what has been a tumultuous season.
WHY WISCONSIN WON: One reason Wisconsin has struggled so mightily in recent weeks has been the team’s inability to start strong and play sound defense. Four days earlier, Michigan opened the game with a 15-2 lead and built its advantage to 25 points before the Badgers made a comeback. Wisconsin fell behind Northwestern 18-1. When Wisconsin played at Purdue last month, the Boilermakers jumped out to leads of 12-0 and 23-4. But on Thursday night, Wisconsin hung tough, even as its offense took time to develop. The Badgers scored only 9 points in the first 12 minutes but entered halftime tied 21-21. Wisconsin rode the emotion of the most electric home crowd this season thanks to Frank Kaminsky’s jersey retirement ceremony and pulled away in the final five minutes.
WHAT IT MEANS: Barring a miraculous run through the Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament streak will end at 19 consecutive appearances. But this is a team that continues to build toward the future, and the result Thursday was a huge step in the right direction. The Badgers had won only two games since Jan. 2, and it’s been easy for the fan base to express dissatisfaction during this atypical season. Wisconsin can point to the Purdue game as reason to be excited moving forward.
WHO STARRED: Ethan Happ and Brad Davison helped carry Wisconsin to victory. Happ recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Davison scored 16 points. Brevin Pritzl added 8 points, including some clutch free throw shooting in the waning seconds.
WHO STUMBLED: Nate Reuvers was held scoreless in 8 minutes. Aleem Ford scored 5 points but connected on only 1 of 7 field goal attempts in 36 minutes.
WHO WAS THERE: Kaminsky returned to have his No. 44 jersey raised to the rafters. Kaminsky was the consensus national player of the year during the 2014-15 season. Several of his Badgers teammates were on hand, including Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Zach Bohannon, Jordan Smith, Bronson Koenig, Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, Ben Brust, Evan Anderson, George Marshall and former assistant Gary Close.
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) February 16, 2018
Frank the Tank… forever a Badger pic.twitter.com/mgmTQbatXg
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 16, 2018
WHO IS NEXT: Wisconsin hosts Minnesota at 8 p.m. CT on Monday night.
Wisconsin upsets No. 6 Purdue 57-53 in the #Badgers most significant victory of the season. Big-time performance on an epic night with Frank Kaminsky's jersey retirement ceremony. pic.twitter.com/PwWjMDmFtD
— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) February 16, 2018
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