On the night that Frank Kaminsky’s No. 44 jersey was raised in the rafters, it seemed fitting that the first team to score 44 points would emerge victorious. It took nearly 36 minutes for a team to break that plateau, but when Wisconsin (5-10 Big Ten, 12-16 overall) scored its 44th and 45th points of the game on a pair of free throws by freshman guard Brad Davison, the Kohl Center crowd erupted.
Some of the best Badgers in recent memory were in attendance as UW knock off No. 6 Purdue (12-3, 23-4) Thursday night 57-53. Throughout the night, fans waved their No. 44 towels and cheered for a team that has had little to cheer about for the last two months. And, when the final buzzer sounded, the student section rushed the floor and celebrated, not just with the current iteration of Badgers, but with many of the Wisconsin basketball alumni present.
But like in their previous two home games, the Badgers fell behind early as they trailed 7-2 just 3:42 into the game. However, unlike Northwestern and Michigan, Purdue was unable to pull away and stretch its first half lead to double-digits
At the 8-minute mark, after seven consecutive empty possessions, redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl nailed a 3-pointer from the edge of the W logo at center court to tie the game at 12.
For more than eight minutes in the first half, Purdue failed to score a point. Still, despite the elation from the Wisconsin crowd, UW struggled to muster-up any offense and, in that span, was only able to grab a 2-point, 14-12 lead.
Just over four minutes later, a 3-pointer and layup by Brad Davison on consecutive possessions gave Wisconsin a 19-14 advantage with 3:26 to go in the half. But a quick 5-0 spurt by Purdue brought the game back to even with 2:03 to play. Minutes later, the teams with vastly different conference seasons so far went into the locker room tied at 22.
Eight minutes into the second half the game was still tied, as both teams created just enough offense to break the 30-point mark. An electric Kohl Center crowd, however, was quickly quieted as 10-0 run by the Boilermakers gave the visitors a 7-point cushion with 9:33 to play.
All the while, as Wisconsin tried to claw back into the game, it often turned to redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ and freshman guard Brad Davison. Happ finished with 21 points and Davison added 16 as UW’s two best players worked to match the offensive firepower of Purdue.
With 5:29 to go in the game, Happ scored his seventh basket of the night to cut Purdue’s lead to only two and after a missed shot by Carsen Edwards. Happ shoveled a pass off to Davison who found a wide-open Khalil Iverson to tie the game at 43 apiece.
And then, after an offensive foul by Purdue senior center Isaac Haas, Davison knocked down a pair of free throws.
Wisconsin scored 44 points first. It led with four minutes to play.
It wasn’t pretty, but in the remaining minutes Wisconsin did just enough to hang on. The Boilermakers struggled to crack UW’s defense and the Badgers made the timely baskets they needed to snag a much needed victory. As Happ fouled out with just under 30 seconds remaining and the Badgers hanging on to a 5-point, he made sure to give his teammates words of encouragement.
He huddled the four players on the court at the time, gave them directions and walked over with his jersey in his mouth, anxious for the waining seconds.
But 21 seconds later, the Kohl Center flood was covered with Badger players and fans. Beyond just a banner getting raised to the rafters, UW had something to cheer about.
Check back later at DailyCadinal.com/section/sports for complete coverage of Wisconsin’s victory.