Wisconsin Men’s Basketball (16-10, 9-6) topped Big Ten rival Purdue (14-13, 7-9) as forward Aleem Ford poured in a career-high 19 points and the Badgers closed out the game going 12-12 from the line in the final 3:44.
The game was a defensive struggle on both ends from the beginning. The first points of the game weren’t scored until three minutes into the contest and neither team cracked 40% from the floor. The difference in the game came down to timely three-point shooting from the Badgers and impressive free throw shooting that helped them ice the game.
Aleem Ford’s career night began with sharp three-point shooting in the first half and continued throughout the game. Ford finished the night 5-8 from beyond the arc and totalled 19 points, a career-high. With 57 seconds left in the first half, already having 11 points on 4-6 shooting and having made a three on Wisconsin’s last possession, Ford drilled a contested step back three. Ford’s triple gave Wisconsin their three point, 30-27, half time lead which they would hold on to for the rest of the game.
In many ways, however, Purdue out played the Badgers. The Boilermakers played long, athletic defense, which kept the Badgers on the perimeter for most of the night. Wisconsin only scored 12 points in the paint. Purdue also out rebounded Wisconsin 37-30 and scored 19 second-chance points. After being down by as much as 13 with ten minutes remaining, the Boilermakers were able to cut the lead to just two with 1:34 remaining.
With 42 seconds remaining, Purdue called timeout down by just two, 61-59. Out of the timeout they ran a play that worked like a charm: Sasha Stefanovic, Purdue’s best three-point shooter, ran along the baseline and then swung up to the right wing, taking multiple screens along the way to open up for a catch and shoot three-pointer. He missed off back iron, but Isiah Thomas grabbed the offensive and fed it back to Stefanovic for another attempt. When he missed again and Brad Davidson grabbed the rebound, Purdue’s hopes were all but gone. Their only hope was to foul and hope Wisconsin would miss free throws.
In the remaining 28 seconds of the game, Wisconsin and Purdue traded made freethrows with made dunks and layups four times. The Boilermakers did everything they could, try to foul and then score as quickly as possible, but they were never able to cut the lead down to a one possession game, as Wisconsin went 8-8 from the line. The Badgers, the best free-throw shooting team in the Big Ten, finished the game 19-20 from the charity stripe.
The 69-65 win over Purdue marked Wisconsin’s third-straight conference win and brought the Badgers all the way up to tied for third in the conference. Wisconsin will look to continue their winning streak in their fourth-to-last Big Ten game on Sunday vs. Rutgers.