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Thursday, May 23, 2024
Wisconsin Badgers vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights 03.07.24
Badgers Claw Their Way to Victory Over Scarlet Knights in men's basketball

Tournament recap: Bucky comes up short in Big Ten championship

After upsetting Purdue in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, the Badgers came up just shy of the trophy in the final against Illinois.

The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 93-87 loss against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Big Ten Tournament championship game Sunday.

The Badgers headed into the tournament after going 2-7 in February, Regardless, Wisconsin earned the fifth seed in Minneapolis with a first-round bye and waited for who would be their first opponent on Thursday based on the winner of the game between the 12th-seeded Maryland Terrapins and the 13th-seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

The Badgers faced off against Maryland Thursday in the tournament’s second round.Wisconsin defeated the Terrapins by 31 points and led by as much as 42 points. Freshman guard John Blackwell putting on a show in his first Big Ten Tournament, scoring a team-high 18 points and four 3-point shots. The Badges made 16 of 25 3-point shots Thursday.

Then on Friday, Wisconsin faced the fourth-seeded Northwestern Wildcats in the quarterfinals where the Badgers came out on top, 70-61. Wisconsin guard AJ Storr and Northwestern guard Boo Buie traded shots with each other throughout the game, and both of them led their respective teams in scoring. Storr scored 30 points and grabbed six rebounds while going seven-for-eight on free-throw attempts. Buie scored 29 points and made seven of his 11 3-point shots while also being a pest on defense, notching three steals in the matchup.

The Badgers went into Saturday with a tall task at hand as they faced the top-seeded Purdue Boilermakers in the semifinals. Wisconsin had lost all of their previous matchups against Purdue this season — at home on Feb. 4 and in Indiana on March 10

The outcome was different this time.Wisconsin was neck-and-neck with the Boilermakers throughout the game, eventually heading to overtime after Badgers guard Chucky Hepburn hit a buzzer-beater, off-the-glass layup. Hepburn scored a team-high 22 points and led Wisconsin in second-half scoring with 14 points. 

Free throws were the difference maker between the Badgers and Purdue, as Wisconsin shot a total of nine throughout the game while the Boilermakers shot 32 — 19 of which came from Purdue forward Zach Edey. 

Free throws played a crucial factor in overtime as the Boilermakers scored all of their points in overtime from the free-throw line. Despite three Badgers players fouling out — Steven Crowl, Tyler Wahl and Nolan Winter — Wisconsin’s guards kept them in the game, which inevitably allowed Max Klesmit to hit the game-winning floater for the Badgers. 

The last stop for Wisconsin was the Big Ten championship game the next day, where they faced off against the second-seeded Fighting Illini. 

Storr and Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr. traded baskets with each other in the first half, with Storr scoring 16 first-half points and Shannon Jr. scoring 15 first-half points. However, just like their last matchup on March 2, the Fighting Illini pulled away in the second half as Shannon Jr. finished the game with 34 points, and Illinois forward Marcus Domask finished with 26 points. 

Storr and Hepburn finished the game with 24 and 20 points, respectively, but it proved futile as the Fighting Illini snatched the championship from Wisconsin’s grasp. 

The Badgers now look to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, where they again find themselves a fifth seed. Their first matchup is against the 12th-seeded James Madison Dukes, who have a record of 31-3. The game will take place Friday in Brooklyn, New York.

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