Wisconsin 69, Purdue 65: The Badgers had a big opportunity and took advantage of it
MADISON - This is the type of game you must find a way to win when you are trying to climb up the Big Ten standings and improve your NCAA Tournament resume.
Aleem Ford hit big shots all game, Nate Reuvers was a force in the second half and the Badgers made 8 of 8 pressure free throws in the final 28.5 seconds Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.
The result: a hard-fought 69-65 victory over a desperate Purdue team.
The Badgers (16-10, 9-6 Big Ten) moved into a tie for third place with Iowa (18-8, 9-6), Michigan State (17-9, 9-6), Rutgers (18-8, 9-6) and Illinois (17-9, 9-6).
Rutgers hosts Michigan on Wednesday and plays at UW on Sunday. Iowa plays Thursday at Ohio State and Michigan State plays Thursday at Nebraska.
The Boilermakers (14-13, 7-9) saw their NCAA Tournament hopes take a hit. Purdue is 2-7 in Big Ten road games and 3-8 in all road games.
Ford hit 5 of 8 three-pointers and led four UW players in double figures with 19 points. He added a team-best seven rebounds.
Brevin Pritzl and Brad Davison added 13 points apiece. Pritzl hit 4 of 4 free throws in the final minute and finished 8 of 8 from the line. Davison also hit 4 of 4 free throws in the final minute.
They helped UW hit 19 of 20 free throws overall.
Reuvers added 12 points, all in the second half, and six rebounds, four in the second half.
He had UW's last field goal, with 5:38 left for a 57-48 lead. UW hit 12 of 12 free throws the rest of the way to hold on.
D'Mitrik Trice finished with eight points and five assists.
Trevion Williams hurt UW in the lane for much of the night and led Purdue with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Nojel Eastern added 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
UW moved the ball well early and hit a handful of three-pointers to build leads of 13-4 and 22-15.
The Boilermakers tightened their defense, however, and once more pounded the offensive glass to compensate for errant shooting. Williams scored inside to pull the Boilermakers into a 22-22 tie with 2:39 left. Aaron Wheeler hit two free throws to give the Boilermakers their first lead of the game, 24-22, with 1:48 left.
Ford and Trice took over from there.
Ford hit back-to-back three-pointers to give UW a 28-24 lead and then after Wheeler converted a three-point play, Trice scored on a drive to give UW a 30-27 lead at the break.
Reuvers, scoreless in the first half, scored seven points and drew a charge on Williams with to help UW push its lead to 42-29 with 14:53 left.
UW's lead was 51-38 when Ford hit a three-pointer with 10:19 left but UW went scoreless on its next four trips and the Boilermakers pulled within 51-45 with 7:32 left.
UW pushed back for a 57-48 lead on a baseline jumper by Reuvers but Eastern scored off an offensive rebound and Sasha Stefanovic (11 points) hit a three-pointer to cut UW's lead to 57-53 with 4:43 left.
After a UW timeout with 4:29 left, Ford and Reuvers grabbed offensive rebounds to keep the possession alive. Reuvers was fouled after his rebound and hit two free throws with 3:44 left to give UW a 59-53 lead.
Eastern scored on a drive and drew a foul by Reuvers and converted the three-point play with 2:34 left.
Trice missed a jumper but Pritzl grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled with 2:03 left. Pritzl buried both free throws for a 61-56 lead and the Boilermakers called a timeout with 1:58 left.
Another offensive rebound by Williams led to a three-pointer by Stefanovic and UW's lead was 61-59 with 1:41 left.
Davison grabbed an offensive rebound after a miss by Trice and UW called a timeout with one minute left.
Trice missed a three-pointer and the Boilermakers got the rebound and called a timeout with 25 seconds left on the shot clock and 42.8 seconds left in the game.
Stefanovic got two open three-pointers but missed both, with the ball going out of bounds after the second miss.
Davison was fouled with 28.5 seconds left and made both free throws and Purdue took another timeout, with 25.8 seconds left.
Williams scored inside and Pritzl was fouled with 23.4 seconds left. Pritzl made both shots for a 65-61 lead.
The Boilermakers scored quickly and fouled Davison with 16.1 seconds left. Davison made both free throws, but Williams countered inside with 8.9 seconds left.
Pritzl was fouled with 7.6 seconds left and, fittingly, made both shots to secure the victory.
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