Fans usually don’t storm the court at Wisconsin. The Badgers usually win at a healthy clip and such an idea would never enter the minds of the fans.
But this hasn’t been your normal season in Madison. The Badgers were thinned by graduation and injuries with not much left in the cupboard.
Needless to say, it’s been a long year for the Badgers, entering play with a 11-16 overall record and 4-10 Big Ten mark, there hasn’t been much to write home about. So enter 2015 National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky. He led the Badgers to back-to-back Final Fours in his final two seasons on campus and has gone on to a nice career in the NBA.
The UW decided it would be a great idea to honor Kaminsky by retiring his number-44, raising it high to the rafters of the Kohl Center. It might not have had to do with all of the Badgers play, but it certainly had something to do with it and the Badgers would go on to knock off No. 6 Purdue 57-53 before 17,287 at the Kohl Center.
When the final horn went off, many of the excited fans flooded the court to celebrate with their team.
Ethan Happ struggled in the first half but hit 6 of 9 shots in the second half and finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out in the final minute.
Ironically, Happ would pass Kirk Penney (1,454 points), Kaminsky (1,458 points) and Bronson Koenig (1,459 points) to move up to No. 10 on the program’s all-time scoring list with 1,463 points.
Brad Davison played one of his worst games at Purdue (5 points, 7 turnovers) but poured in 16 points and committed just one turnover on Thursday night.
Brevin Pritzl continued his solid play with eight points and six rebounds.
Purdue did go on a 10-0 run to take a 39-32 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the game and it looked like the Badgers efforts would be for not. But Bucky wouldn’t go down that easy, going on a 15-4 run of their own to take the lead.
A number of players made key plays when the Badgers needed them most. Happ and Pritzl hit some clutch free throws down the stretch. And Khalil Iverson came up with a huge blocked shot in the final minutes. He finished with three blocks and 10 rebounds.
The Badgers (12-16, 5-10) beat a ranked opponent for the first time this season (eight attempts).
Purdue meanwhile has now dropped three straight, after a 19-game winning streak. With Ohio State losing, the Boilermakers missed out on a chance to move back into a first place tie with the Buckeyes and Michigan State.
Sophomore guard Carsen Edwards finished with 22 points to lead Purdue.
The Badgers would like nothing more than to return to the days when fans expected to win and weren’t storming courts after wins over ranked teams. But Thursday night was a night this team and its fans needed.
Badger coach Greg Gard said beforehand, the best thing they could do to honor Frank Kaminsky is by the way they played. That’s exactly what they did. One of their best defensive efforts in a while and you can give Kaminsky an assist. His mere presence left the Kohl Center buzzing, before, during and after the game.