#5 Purdue Clinches Outright B1G Conference Championship.
by: Shawn Martin/Excel H Sports
After the game Purdue Coach Matt Painter was asked if he knew his team had clinched the B1G Title by halftime of their 63-61 victory over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison Thursday night. Illinois beat Michigan 91-87 to enter a six-way tie for second place at 11-8 – and that eliminated every other conference team from having a chance to tie the Boilermakers in the standings. Four of those six – Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, and Maryland – have identical 20-10 records on the season. There is going to be quite an algorithm needed to seed the B1G Tournament this year!
Wisconsin sophomore guard Chuckie Hepburn hit a shot just outside the paint with 18:19 left in the opening half to open the scoring. Purdue would not answer for more than a minute when freshman Braden Smith hit a jumper to tie the score with just a few ticks over 17 minutes.
The two teams would go back and forth for the next five minutes, and the host Badgers led 10-8 at the second media timeout.
Purdue – namely National Player of the Year front-runner Zach Edey – struggled uncharacteristically shooting free throws. Edey was one of six in the opening half from the FT line and three of eight for the game. That slump from the charity stripe caused Edey to have a somewhat ‘subpar’ game of 17 points and 19 rebounds. It is almost laughable to
consider that is a “pedestrian” stat line for the 7-4 Junior.”
Purdue (25-5, 14-5) used a nice 8-2 run after the second media timeout to take a 16-12 lead after a Brandon Newman steal and layup with 9:00 minutes left in the first half.
The Badgers settled down and, cut the lead to one – 20-19 – with 7:01 left, but Purdue would head into the locker room at halftime with a 31-27 lead. Edey and freshman guard Fletcher Loyer each had nine first half.
Both teams struggled out of the gate in the second half – taking almost three minutes to turn one of his six offensive rebounds into a layup and give his team their largest lead of the game at six points.
The Badgers (16-13, 8-11) saw freshman Connor Essegian (Central Noble) hit a jumper and a three that helped – along with Max Klesmit – give Wisconsin the lead at 35-34. Klesmit hit another one just a minute later, and when Hepburn hit a Three-Pointer with 15:20 left, it put the home team up five – 41-36. Purdue would tie the score at 45, just four minutes later.
The teams would continue to be closely matched the rest of the way out. Purdue’s Ethan Morton missed a free-throw with four seconds left which put Purdue up two, and the Boilermaker defense forced Wisconsin to use clock and not get a great look at the basket.
After Edey, Loyer added 13 and Smith 9. Newman continued his energetic play with seven as did Morton. Purdue dominated the rebounding as they usually do 37-23 and they also outscored the Badgers 30-18 in the paint.
Klesmit led all scorers with 19, Hepburn followed with 13, and Essegian – who has been hot lately, but was in foul trouble first half – had 8.
Purdue closes out its regular season Sunday at Home vs. Illinois. Wisconsin travels to Minnesota also on Sunday.
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