WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.—At times in the second half it seemed like Wisconsin was throwing everything it could at No. 12 Purdue.
And at night's end it was just enough to fall short.
As senior point guard Trevon Hughes' final runner bounced off the rim, No. 16 Wisconsin (6-3 Big Ten, 16-5 overall) lost the chance to earn a rare win over Purdue (5-3, 17-3) in Mackey Arena. The final score was 60-57, but that does not tell the story of a second half that featured several big momentum swings and a slew of important shots in the game's final minute.
""It was especially frustrating tonight because I felt like a couple times we had [them in] a position where we kind of wanted them,"" junior forward Keaton Nankivil said. ""In both cases I thought we had some good stuff going, but I guess they made plays down the stretch and we struggled a couple times.""
The Badgers were up 38-31 early in the second half, but Purdue refused to let them pull away, going on a 9-0 spurt. Sophomore guard Jordan Taylor stemmed the run for a moment with a pair of free throws, but Purdue then dropped eight more on the Badgers.
This time it was Wisconsin that did not fold.
""We were, maybe to some people, buried a little bit,"" Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. ""When it's 48-40 and playing as hardnosed as both our teams are, that's a deep deficit to come back from, and we did. So I like that part, and just possession for possession, at the end they got a little more than us.""
The Badgers rallied behind Nankivil's shooting, and his 3-pointer from the top of the key with 43 seconds left gave them a 57-56 edge. On the other end, junior guard E'Twaun Moore responded, working off a screen from junior teammate JaJuan Johnson and dropping a floater in the lane to retake the advantage for good.
Ryan put the ball in Hughes' hands, but the only shot he could get was a pressured 3-pointer from the corner that did not draw iron but bounced out of bounds off a Purdue player. Hughes got another chance with six seconds left, but his driving bank shot over a crowd of defenders went a bit too hard off the glass.
""I should have been more aggressive, just attacked the first time, but the one with six seconds left, that's the shot that was there. I couldn't get into the lane anymore because, I believe, three guys jumped at me,"" Hughes said. ""That was the best look I could get was the floater. Sometimes it drops, but [it was] just too hard.""
Hughes added that he felt he was fouled on the 3-point attempt but said he should not have even asked the ref for a call.
Nankivil carried the Wisconsin offense for stretches, dropping seven 3-point buckets on the evening and scoring a career-high 25 points. Most of it came on outside jumpers, opened up by an extremely aggressive Purdue perimeter defense that let him come free when he set picks and then faded to the perimeter.
""It was another one of those situations where we knew how they were going to play the ball screens, a little more aggressive, and almost double [Hughes] and Jordan a lot of times,"" Nankivil said. ""Up to this point I haven't really proven myself to be able to shoot, so their game plan was let a center shoot. Today just happened to be a good day, I guess.""
That strong defense, however, also played a big role in limiting the scoring nights of Wisconsin's three starting guards. The trio of Hughes, Taylor and senior Jason Bohannon scored 57 points when the teams met in Madison, but shot only 29 percent in the rematch.
""We knew what happened last game, their guards basically did whatever they wanted, scoring, getting to the bucket,"" said Moore, who scored a team-high 20 points. ""We just focused on guarding them. Just guarding dribble penetration, keeping our hands off them, not fouling and just keeping them in front of us.""