Looking to extend its winning streak to eight games and send its three senior players out with one final home win, the Wisconsin men’s basketball pushed past Purdue in a 76-70 victory at the Kohl Center Wednesday.
Although it may have been Senior Night, it was business as usual for head coach Bo Ryan and his Badgers (25-5, 12-5 Big Ten), who set out looking for their 12th conference win of the season.
“I try not to talk about it too much other than just show respect for teammates and try your best. But basically that’s what we’re saying every game. You just reiterate all the points that you’ve made from the first day they’ve been on campus,” Ryan said. “To me, Senior Night is just like any other night. It’s 40 minutes of basketball.”
The Boilermakers (15-15, 5-12 Big Ten) got on the board first with a jumper from senior guard Terone Johnson, but the 2-0 lead would be the only one of the night for Purdue. The Badgers began to heat things up starting with a bucket from junior guard Traevon Jackson and never looked back after taking an early 8-2 lead.
Jackson led the way for Wisconsin in the first half, going 4-of-4 from the floor including a pair of threes for a team-high 12 points heading into the locker room. With less than three minutes to go in the half, Jackson took over, nailing a three and following it up with a pair of free throws to give UW its then-highest lead of the game at 15 points. A layup and turnover by the Badgers in the final seconds of the first half allowed the Boilermakers to begin to close in on UW, ending the first 20 minutes down 11.
Jackson quieted down in the second half, adding just three additional points for UW on the night. But junior guard Frank Kaminski got hot, hitting a three to open scoring for UW in the second half of play.
“Frank has it in him. He’s already proven that,” Ryan said. “He was opportunistic. Guys got him the ball in some good spots and he finished…This isn’t unusual.”
Kaminski extended Wisconsin’s lead to a game-high 18 points off a three with 10 minutes and 15 seconds remaining in the game, but the Boilermakers refused to back down. Following Kaminiski’s score Purdue shut down UW’s offense, finding itself on a 13-4 run and keeping Wisconsin without a score from the floor for nearly six minutes and dwindling the Badgers’ lead down to just seven points.
It was an ice cold Sam Dekker who finally hit a jumper less than five minutes remaining that rebooted the Wisconsin offense. The only bucket from the floor all night for Dekker, the sophomore finished the game 1-of-7 with just five points.
Despite the unusually low-scoring performance from Dekker, Wisconsin was able to to rely on its other key starters including Kaminski is what makes Wisconsin. Kaminski finished the night with a game-high 22 points going 8-from-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
“They have good balance,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “They have five guys out there that can pass it and shoot it and they really put you in a bind.”
A fitting end to senior night, Badger veterans Zach Bohannon and Evan Anderson took the floor with less than a minute remaining following a standing ovation as senior guard Ben Brust—who finished the night with nine points and four rebounds—left the game.
Bohannon tallied the last two points for Wisconsin in the Kohl Center this season off a pair of free throws, sealing in the victory. A buzzer beating three by Purdue’s freshman Kendall Stephens was a push too late as the Badgers walked away with a six-point victory.
“It was nice to have everyone smiling in the locker room and smiling after the game,” Brust said. “It’s much better to get a win on 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.”
Remembering the Senior Day upset at the Kohl Center last season at the hands of the Boilermakers, sending these three Badgers out on a high note was a must-do for the rest of their teammates.
With the victory, Wisconsin improved to 12-5 in the Big Ten putting them No. 2 in the Big Ten behind Michigan. The Badgers will head to Nebraska for their final Big Ten regular season game Sunday night.