The No. 10 University of Wisconsin Badgers (24-5, 15-4 Big Ten) defeated the No. 8 Purdue University Boilermakers (24-6, 13-6 Big Ten) 70-67 to earn a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
In a game that will go down in history as one of the greatest Wisconsin basketball games ever, the Badgers’ all-around effort proved to be enough to sweep the Boilermakers in the 2021-2022 season.
Leading up to the most anticipated game of the season, the city of Madison came alive. Students lined up outside of the Kohl Center several hours in advance in order to secure a spot for the game. With over a half hour until the 8 p.m. tip off time, the entirety of the student section had been filled up. As each Purdue player walked to or from the tunnel, the students rained down boos.
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With a Kohl Center environment that was ready to erupt at any point, the Badgers were ready to have their moment on the biggest stage.
After scoring 37 points in the two teams previous meeting this season, the Boilermakers made it clear that they were not going to let Wisconsin’s national player of the year finalist Johnny Davis haunt their night again.
The Boilermakers went after Davis early, double teaming him once he got through the perimeter and not letting him take any comfortable shots. Davis finished the night with 16 points (5-12 FG, 0-1 3PT, 6-6 FT) to go along with eight rebounds and an assist. Though he may not have led the Badgers in scoring, Davis’ ability to draw the defense, oftentimes Purdue’s best perimeter defender, Jaden Ivey, ultimately proved to be the difference Tuesday night.
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Tyler Wahl, Chucky Hepburn and Davis each scored in double-figures Tuesday, totaling 52 points between the trio.
Wahl was everywhere Tuesday. The Badgers crafty post-man feared nothing, taking early 3-pointers, attacking the rim at will and even going after Purdue’s 7-foot-4-inch center Zach Edey in the post. Wahl collected two rebounds and two assists on top of five steals on his way to a 19 point night (8-14 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT).
No matter how well the Badgers played, Purdue was never going to go down easy. Each possession felt more and more significant as the game played on.
Leading 65-64 with 50 seconds to play, Davis scored another classic clutch bucket for the Badgers, hitting a contested mid-range jumper to extend the lead to three.
After a defensive stop, rebound and Purdue foul to force Wisconsin free throws, Brad Davison was at the line with the chance to ice the game. Unlike the clutch free throw shooter Davison has been in the past, he missed his first attempt.
With just 16 seconds remaining, Ivey dribbled the ball up the floor with one goal in mind, tying the game at 67. The future NBA lottery pick pulled up from the top of the arc and nailed the clutch 3-pointer. The minute the shot left Ivey’s hands, the entire stadium knew the shot was going in. In a battle between two future lottery picks (Davis and Ivey), Ivey proved that he had the clutch gene.
Now tied 67-67, Chucky Hepburn caught the inbounds pass with 11 seconds remaining.
As Hepburn hastily dribbled down the floor, the freshman guard saw a lane to the basket with Ivey draped all over him. Instead of continuing to the basket, Hepburn stepped back to his left and heaved a fairly open three point attempt in the air.
Time froze in the Kohl Center as thousands of fans fell quiet watching the ball in the air. The second the ball bounced off the backboard and into the basket, the stadium erupted. Hepburn’s shot put the Badgers up by three with less than two seconds in the game.
The entire stadium immediately rose to their feet, high fiving, hugging and embracing each other while producing deafening levels of excitement. The students started to pile up in the student section as they waited for the final buzzer, which would allow them to rush the court and celebrate with the new champions of the Big Ten.
After a disappointing end to the 2020-2021 season which included a round of 32 loss in the NCAA tournament followed by an attempted mutiny of coach Greg Gard in the offseason, the Badgers have clawed their way back to the top of the mountain.
The Badgers are set to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sunday at 1 p.m. A win is needed in order to secure a lone share of the Big Ten championship. Wisconsin defeated Nebraska 73-65 in Lincoln earlier this season.