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 win a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
In a game that will go down in history as one of Wisconsin’s greatest basketball games, the Badgers’ overall effort proved enough to sweep the Boilermakers in the 2021-22 season.
Ahead of the most anticipated game of the season, the town of Madison came alive. The students lined up outside the Kohl Center several hours in advance to secure a spot for the game. With more than half an hour before the 8 p.m. whistleblowing time, the entire student section had been filled. 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 moment, the Badgers were ready to have their moment on the biggest stage.
After scoring 37 points the previous time the two teams met this season, the Boilermakers made it clear they weren’t going to let Wisconsin National Player of the Year finalist Johnny Davis haunt their night again.
The Boilermakers tackled Davis early, doubling him once he crossed the perimeter and not letting him take 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. While he may not have led the Badgers in scoring, Davis’ ability to draw the defense, often Purdue’s best perimeter defender Jaden Ivey, finally proved to be the difference on Tuesday night.
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Tyler Wahl, Chucky Hepburn and Davis each scored in double digits on Tuesday, totaling 52 points between the trio.
Wahl was everywhere on Tuesday. The shrewd Badgers postman feared nothing, taking the first 3-pointers, attacking the rim at will and even chasing Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey into the post. Wahl had two rebounds and two assists in addition to five steals en route 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 seemed more and more important as the game progressed.
Leading 65-64 with 50 seconds left, Davis scored another classic clutch bucket for the Badgers, hitting a contested midrange jumper to extend the lead to three.
After a defensive save, a rebound and a foul by Purdue to force Wisconsin’s free throws, Brad Davison was on the line with the chance to freeze the game. Unlike the clutch free-throw shooter that Davison has been in the past, he missed on his first attempt.
With just 16 seconds remaining, Ivey dribbled the ball across the floor with a goal in the lead, tying the game at 67. The future NBA lottery pick stopped from the top of the arc and nailed the clutch at 3 dots. The minute the shot left Ivey’s hands, the whole stadium knew the shot was coming. In a battle between two future lottery picks (Davis and Ivey), Ivey proved he had the clutch gene.
Now tied at 67-67, Chucky Hepburn caught the incoming pass with 11 seconds left.
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As Hepburn dribbled hastily across the floor, the freshman guard saw a lane to the basket with Ivey draped over him. Instead of continuing to the basket, Hepburn backed up to his left and launched a fairly open three-point attempt into the air.
Time froze at the Kohl Center as thousands of fans fell silent as they watched the ball in the air. The second the ball bounced off the backboard and into the basket, the stadium erupted. Hepburn’s shot gave the Badgers a three-point lead with less than two seconds left in the game.
The entire stadium immediately rose to their feet, clapping, hugging and hugging while producing deafening levels of excitement. Students began to crowd into the student section awaiting the final buzzer, which would allow them to rush onto the field and celebrate with the new Big Ten champions.
After a disappointing end to the 2020-21 season that included a Round of 16 loss in the NCAA Tournament followed by an attempted mutiny from coach Greg Gard in the offseason, the Badgers found their way back to the top of the mountain. .
The Badgers are scheduled to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sunday at 1 p.m. A win is needed to secure a single share of the Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin beat Nebraska 73-65 at Lincoln earlier this season.