Purdue is no stranger to the Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s senior night.
A year ago, the Boilermakers came to Madison and spoiled the celebration, handing five Wisconsin seniors a loss in their final game on the Kohl Center hardwood.
This season, the juniors took it upon themselves to make sure the seniors would leave their home court on top.
“[It's] very important for us,” Junior center Frank Kaminsky said of sending out seniors with a win. “We love them. I’ve been with them for three years now and have developed great relationships with all of them. Last year was kind of tough sending the seniors out on a sour note, and we didn’t want that to happen again. We wanted to do it for them.”
With only one senior on the Wisconsin roster that would see significant minutes—Ben Brust—the juniors took it upon themselves to make sure Wednesday night ended in a win.
Wisconsin (25-5, 12-5 Big Ten) came out with the hot hand shooting 48.3 percent (14-29) from the field and 57 percent from three-point range in the first half. Of the 14 field goals the Badgers made in the first 20 minutes, 10 came from juniors Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser and three more came from Brust.
Jackson didn’t miss a shot he took in the first half, sinking all four shots from the floor—two from beyond the arc—and both of his free throw attempts.
“[Jackson] is a good player and he picks his spots too,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “He gets that ball moving and he understands that everybody needs to get their crack at it and if doesn’t work he’s going to get it back at the end of the shot clock.”
Kaminsky and Gasser would continue to keep up the pace that Jackson set in the first half as the two juniors would combine for 22 of Wisconsin’s 41 second-half points.
Kaminsky’s back-to-back 11-point halves would earn him a game-high scoring total of 22 points.
“Frank has it in him. He’s already proven that. He was opportunistic,” Ryan said. “Guys got him the ball in some good spots and he finished.”
Free throws became a major factor in the game as the Boilermakers picked up their seventh foul with just under 10 minutes left in the game, putting the Badgers in the bonus. From that point on, Wisconsin took 27 free throws and made 20 of its attempts ,after taking only four freebies in the first half.
Of the Badgers’ 31 total trips to the free throw line, Jackson, Gasser and Kaminsky accounted for 18 of them while Brust pitched in three more tries.
“You have to keep them off the free throw line,” Painter said. “If you’re going to let them get to the free throw line, they went 23-for-31 tonight, and that’s probably struggling for them. But you have to keep them off the free throw line.”
Purdue crept back into the game midway through the second half pulling within seven with just more than six minutes to go, although it never felt like the game was out of control for Wisconsin.
The final score showed just a six-point win for Wisconsin over the Big Ten’s last-place team, but Jackson and his teammates were always confident in their position in the game.
“I thought the score was a little misrepresentative of the game just because I thought we did a good job throughout the entire game keeping control of it,” Jackson said.
For Brust, the senior guard did his best to treat Wednesday’s game like any other Big Ten matchup, but he still let nostalgia creep in just a little.
“It was definitely cool going out there for your last time with your parents and your family,” Brust said. “I think we were all focused on getting the job done because we know how much better that makes it for the seniors and then everyone collectively as a whole.”
Brust finished his final home game with the Badgers with nine points, four rebounds and one assist.
After the win Wisconsin’s three seniors, Brust, Zach Bohannon and Evan Anderson, got a special tribute from the program with a video montage and thank you message from each senior.
All three have enjoyed their careers at Wisconsin and one game wasn’t going to change that, but it didn’t t hurt to leave home court on a positive note.
“It was nice to have everyone smiling in the locker room and smiling after the game,” Brust said. “It makes it much better for everyone, the seniors especially. It’s much better to get a win in your last time on the home floor. I’ve had some amazing experiences here at the Kohl Center and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do the rest of the way.”