Badgers news: 3 takeaways from 76-75 win over Purdue

The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Purdue Boilermakers 76-75 in overtime in the tournament semifinals. Big Ten Championship on Saturday, thanks to a match-winner from Max Kleismet in a thrilling classic.

With the win, the Badgers will advance to the tournament finals, where they will face the winner of the Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers game, with the game scheduled for 2:30 PM on Sunday.

Offensively, Wisconsin shot 43.2 percent from the field and 21.9 percent from three, making enough plays to win, with Chucky Hepburn leading the charge with 22 points.

Defensively, the Badgers held their own despite allowing 32 free throws, holding Purdue to 45.1 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from deep.

Here are three takeaways from the Badgers' 76-75 win over the Purdue Boilermakers.

defense

With Wisconsin struggling at times, both from the field and on 3-pointers, the Badgers had to rely on their defense to stay the course throughout the game.

Wisconsin got off to a slow start offensively, missing each of its first five 3-pointers, forcing Purdue to jump out to an early lead.

But, similar to the Northwestern game on Friday, the Badgers went on an 11-2 run to take their first lead of the game, as Purdue was unable to connect on a number of threes in that stretch.

Wisconsin thrives on momentum swings and this game was no different, as the Badgers turned defense into offense to go on a big run.

The Badgers ultimately held Purdue to just 1/8 from three in the first half, which was integral in holding the Boilermakers to 36 points, as the latter had 18 free throw attempts in the first half.

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However, the second half witnessed clear brilliance in the defensive efforts, especially at the beginning of the second half.

While Purdue shot the ball well, Wisconsin was able to force 11 turnovers, while holding the Boilermakers scoreless over a 5:20 span in which they forced six turnovers, keeping them in the game, despite some offensive struggles.

More importantly, Wisconsin found a way to not foul nearly as much until the end of regulation when they were forced to, keeping Purdue away from the free throw line.

The Badgers had some disadvantages, as Purdue found its 3-point shot, shooting 4/6 from deep, while shooting 12/23 from the field.

But that five-minute stretch saved Wisconsin at a time when their offense was struggling, keeping the Badgers in it to maintain a chance of victory.

In overtime, all of Purdue's free throws, which had 10 attempts at the goal line, made nine of them, while the Boilermakers missed all three of their field attempts.

Adversity

Free throw disparity was a big part of Sunday's game, keeping the Boilermakers at distance, finishing with 32 attempts from the goal line, compared to nine for the Badgers.

Zach Eddy was the biggest beneficiary, as he made 19 shots and hit 14 of his free throws.

But the Badgers were working against a quick whistle, which forced Nolan Winter, Tyler Wahl, and Steven Kroll to foul out, leaving Wisconsin to play Carter Gilmore as their center for the majority of overtime.

However, throughout all of the free throw attempts, the Badgers remained firmly in the mix, matching Purdue's goal at the goal line with clutch shots down the line, right up until the final whistle.

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Fouls have always been controversial when the Badgers face the Boilermakers, and Sunday was no different, but the most important part is that Wisconsin found a way to weather the storm with all of their different lineup combinations.

Facing injuries, with Tyler Wahl and John Blackwell visibly suffering from knee soreness, and Chucky Hepburn still suffering from knee soreness, the Badgers still found a way to prevail in an unpredictable environment, beating a foe that had outscored them twice this season ordinary.

Wisconsin didn't shoot the ball well, which was key coming into the game, as they connected on just 7/32 (21.9 percent) of their threes.

Even AJ Storr struggled with his efficiency, specifically in the second half, where he shot 3/12, but the Badgers picked up their biggest win of the year, nonetheless, leading them to the Big Ten Tournament Finals.

Chucky Hepburn

Not enough can be said about Chucky Hepburn's performance, as the Badgers guard was the team's best player on Saturday.

While dealing with a knee issue that was serious enough to miss Friday's game against the Northwestern Wildcats, Hepburn managed to persevere through a tough 38 minutes, scoring a team-high 22 points on 9/12 from the field.

Down the stretch, with Storr struggling to connect on shots, the Badgers turned to Hepburn, who showed he could still be a scorer when his team needed him to be.

The majority of his offensive production came in the second half, as Hepburn scored 14 points on 6/8 shooting in that period, while grabbing three key steals.

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With the game on the line in regulation, coach Greg Gard called a beautiful play, which led to Hepburn getting a one-on-one chance as he got past Braden Smith to score a game-tying layup as the buzzer sounded.

Then, in overtime, Hepburn forced a key turnover on Braden Smith with 21 seconds left, chasing him 94 feet before drawing an offensive foul as the Purdue keeper crossed the midcourt, giving Wisconsin the ball down one point to end the game.

However, Max Klesmet eventually delivered the killer shot, driving and hitting a floater over Zach Eddy with just under five seconds left to seal the win for the Badgers and send them to the Big Ten Tournament finals.

Hepburn said confidently after the Northwestern game that there was nothing stopping him from playing against Purdue.

Not only did he play, but the Badgers guard fought his heart out for 38 minutes, and Wisconsin needed every minute of that effort to win this game.

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