The state of Wisconsin has been waiting 55 years for this.
The UW men’s basketball team clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title with a 74-54 victory over the Michigan Wolverines Wednesday might, giving the Badgers their first conference championship since 1947.
Kirk Penney and Devin Harris each scored 21 points, and senior Travon Davis bid farewell to the Kohl Center by posting a career-high 10 rebounds to accompany his seven assists and five points.
After the victory, Wisconsin fans rushed to floor to share in the Badgers’ jubilant celebration. Amidst all the chaos, the Badgers and head coach Bo Ryan managed to make their way to the makeshift stage set up at halfcourt, where the Badgers were presented with the Big Ten Championship Trophy.
Surrounded by red shirts and ecstatic fans, Davis and Harris stood victorious atop the scorer’s table, hoisting the trophy for which they had worked so hard season.
“This is great,” Harris, who celebrated his 19th birthday Wednesday, said after the game. “I’ll remember this forever. We played hard, and this is just a great feeling.”
The Badgers led almost the entire game after getting off to a hot start. They hit their first seven three-pointers, as Michigan struggled to find scoring options other than forward LaVell Blanchard, who finished with 14 points.
After hitting his first three long-range shots, Blanchard was relegated to the bench when he picked up his third first-half foul, and Michigan scored only two points the rest of the half.
The Badgers shot a blistering 80 percent from three-point range in the first half, which, combined with Blanchard’s absence, allowed them to open up a 48-23 halftime lead that the Wolverines were never able to overcome. During the trophy ceremony, the Badgers donned Big Ten Championship hats and t-shirts as Ryan and Davis addressed the ecstatic Badger fans. “I seriously meant to think about the teams that have gone before this group, all the coaches, all the fans that have come and gone and the ones that have stayed,” Ryan said to the crowd, who found time to momentarily halt their celebration. “It’s sweet for all of the alumni to be able to say, ‘When you go to the Kohl Center, you’ll be able to look up and see 2002 [on the Big Ten Championship banner].’”