Down two with a little over a minute left, Matt Painter and Purdue needed to try something different to escape with a victory. They went with Hack-a-Happ.
Ethan Happ, a 54 percent free throw shooter, missed the first two sending the Kohl Center into a nervous wreck. Vincent Edwards came down the floor for Purdue and put a series of moves on Aleem Ford to get within two, and it seemed like the Badgers upset bid might be for not.
They hacked Happ again, and this time he made one-of-two. After a missed Dakota Mathias three, it was Purdue’s last chance. They needed Happ to miss.
Happ, however, ruined the drama by sinking both free throws, saving Frank Kaminsky night, allowing the student section to rush the court, and giving the Badgers the victory.
“You’ve got to try to be one-for-one,” Happ said of the free throws. “I’ve done it so many times before and I’ve just got to take my time.”
Wisconsin got its first marquee win of the year winning 57-53, giving Purdue its third straight loss. The win improves Wisconsin to 12-16, 5-10 in the Big Ten. Happ had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Carsen Edwards scored 22 points to lead Purdue.
After getting down 9-2 early in what looked like a repeat of the game in Mackey Arena, the Badgers held the Big Ten’s second-ranked scoring offense scoreless for 8:38 during the middle of the first half. Purdue couldn’t get anything going with the exception of Carsen Edwards, who hit two threes and a stepback jumper in the opening minutes.
Purdue head coach Matt Painter said of Wisconsin’s defense: “I think Wisconsin got better defensively as the game went on.”
For Wisconsin, things didn’t come that easy on the offensive side for a while, either. The Badgers were down 12-9 and were stuck in a 4:26 scoring drought (their second four-plus minute scoring drought of the game already at that point) when finally Brevin Pritzl gave the team some life. Pritzl hit an NBA range three-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to tie the game up. The next defensive possession, Pritzl stole the ball and went coast-to-coast and finished with a nice left-handed reverse layup.
Wisconsin and Purdue were tied going into halftime at 21-all, despite Happ going just 3-11 from the field. Even with Happ struggling, the Badgers still outscored the Boilermakers in the paint by ten points. Carsen Edwards was the only scorer in double-digits with 11.
Carsen Edwards started the second half just as hot. He scored or assisted on four of Purdue’s first five buckets of the half, but the Badgers kept battling the #6 ranked team in the nation. Wisconsin took a three-point lead after a Ford triple and a tough jumper from the left corner with the shot clock expiring from Davison. The Kohl Center was as loud as it’s been during the entire 2017-18 season.
But, of course, Carsen Edwards was there to answer. The sophomore pulled up from deep three-point range to tie the game back up. The Edwards three catapulted a 10-0 scoring run. Nojel Eastern forced a turnover and finished with an and-one bucket at the rim. A few possessions later, Eastern hit a floater through contact earning another and-one.
While Purdue started to get it going, Wisconsin’s offense became stagnant. The Badgers had yet another long scoring drought with this one lasting over three minutes. The Boilermakers kept Wisconsin from getting any good looks, much less high percentage looks. Happ would finally get the Badgers back on the board after an array of post-moves throwing Haas into a spin-cycle and finished through contact for an and-one.
The Badgers went on a 6-0 run for just over a minute to tie the game back up at 43-43 with under five minutes remaining. Davison beautifully went up with the shot but passed it off to Iverson who was waiting under the hoop for an easy slam, forcing Matt Painter to call timeout.
Wisconsin continued to string successful possessions together. Iverson took a charge on a screen by Haas. The next trip down, Davison drew a foul on a drive to the hoop and converted both free throws, giving Wisconsin the lead. Haas would give the Badgers the ball back on the second straight possession, falling down on a post move and sending the ball out of bounds.
Down the stretch, the Badgers executed all the plays they needed to, including the clutch free throws, to beat the #6 ranked team in the country. It was a big step forward for a young team that has seen many wins crumble in the final minutes of games.
“It gives us confidence,” Davison said of the upset. “This team has had potential all year… A lot of people have been giving up on us, but we haven’t given up on ourselves.”
The game was a far cry from the 28-point beatdown the Badgers received in Mackey Arena on January 16th.
“They’ve grown,” head coach Greg Gard said. “They’ve improved… With this group, you have to get experience of what works and what doesn’t work. We saw a lot of what doesn’t work in West Lafayette.”
Up next, the Badgers are at home against Minnesota on Monday night.