Juniors' Day Lifts UW on Senior Day

On a day where Wisconsin honored its seniors, juniors Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser all scored in double figures to lead the Badgers to a 76-70 win over Purdue, extending UW's winning streak to eight.

MADISON - The backdrop for Wisconsin's final regular season home game was supposed to be senior night, a chance to honor Evan Anderson, Zach Bohannon and Ben Brust in their final game appearance at the Kohl Center.

But by the midpoint of the first half, a couple of juniors had already bumped Brust and Co. as the headliners off the marquee and already knocked the wind out of the Boilermakers.

Combining for 49 points, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Frank Kaminsky helped No.9 Wisconsin avenge last year's senior day with a 76-70 triumph over Purdue Wednesday night.

Wisconsin (25-5, 12-5 Big Ten) swept the Boilermakers for the first time since 2005 and extended its conference winning streak to eight games, its longest since winning its final 11 games in the 1940-41 season.

"Last year was kind of tough sending the seniors out on a sour note," said Kaminsky, who finished with a game-high 22 points. "We didn't want that to happen again. We wanted to do that for them."

Not trailing for the final 38:20 was just what Wisconsin needed to give all three seniors their due. Brust checked out of the game with 21.9 seconds left to a standing ovation, finishing with nine points and four rebounds. Bohannon and Anderson checked in shortly thereafter, each playing a couple possessions before they came out to the same kind of treatment.

It was a far different scene a year ago when UW players were forced to sit through a lengthy tribute video after missing its final 18 3-pointers in a 13-point loss.

"It was nice to have everyone smiling in the locker room and smiling after the game," said Brust. "It makes it much better for everyone and the seniors included."

The first 10 points by Wisconsin were scored by five different players, leading to a 12-4 run out of the gates, and the offense just kept coming, especially from the two juniors.

Jackson and Kaminsky were a combined 6-7 on that opening stretch, building a lead to as many as 15 points. Both in double figures by halftime, the duo were responsible for nine of UW's 14 made buckets in the first half, while Kaminsky continued to take advantage of a mismatch inside against Purdue's A.J. Hammons to shoot an efficient 8-for-11 overall.

"We were just taking what they were giving us," said Jackson (14 points). "It was good to get some shots going down."

It was a stark turnaround from last year's senior day when the Badgers sent off five seniors on a loss for the first time in 12 years under Ryan. On that night a sub.500 Boilermakers team used tough defense, aggressiveness on the glass and the ability to snag loose balls to outscore UW by 18 in the second half.

That tenacity wasn't on display this time, as this year's Boilermakers (15-15, 5-12) had as many turnovers (four) as made shots in the first 19 possessions and missed their first 11 3-point attempts, not making their first one until the 6:07 mark in the second half.

"I thought we got the shots that we wanted and then they backed up off some guys and some guys took the bait," said Purdue coach Matt Painter, as the Boilermakers got a team-high 15 points from Ronnie Johnson but 0-for-4 from three. "We took too many threes. We didn't probe the defense and show enough patience. We got the ball where we needed it to be, just didn't finish at the rims a couple times."

Eleven times this season Wisconsin had let a comfortable lead slip away to turn an easy victory into a nail biter, including Sunday's 71-66 victory at Penn State when they let a 10-point lead nearly slip away. It only cost UW once – the Badgers led by 10 at Indiana before losing – and it was a point of emphasis to fix by the players after winning at State College.

It was also a problem last year when Wisconsin led by 13 points in the first half and nine in the second half before Purdue made its run.

So when UW's lead was cut to 38-30 in the opening minutes of the second half, Wisconsin responded defensively with nine empty possessions, including four missed 3-pointers and four turnovers.

Wisconsin rebuilt its 15-point lead but Purdue never got closer than six thanks to some timely plays by Sam Dekker. After Purdue cut the UW lead to seven, the smallest it had been since the 11:13 mark of the first half, Dekker registered his only field goal with a 3-point play to push the lead back to double digits with 4:28 remaining.

On Purdue's final push, having a chance to cut the lead to six with a little over a minute left, Dekker registered his lone block, resulting in two Jackson free throws at the other end.

Gasser (13 points) helped ice the game by going 9-for-9 from the line in the second half.

"Second half was good to get the ball moving and get them in foul trouble a little bit and get to the free throw line," said Jackson, as UW went 9-for-10 from the line in the final 2:02. "I thought the score was misrepresentative of the game because I thought we did a good job the entire game of keeping control of it."

A Big Ten regular title is no longer in play for Wisconsin – Michigan took care of that with a 31-point drubbing of Illinois Tuesday – but there is still plenty at stake in terms of Big Ten and NCAA tournament seeding, a chance to open the national tournament in Milwaukee and carry some momentum into a postseason conference tournament it hasn't win since 2008.

"We've had some amazing experiences here at the Kohl Center," said Brust. "Looking forward to seeing what we can do the rest of the way."


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