Tied up at 21 at the half and with Ethan Happ struggling, a halftime pep talk from one Badgers center to another apparently did the trick.
Frank Kaminsky shared a brief moment at halftime with former teammate, Happ, imploring the Badgers to kick some Purdue butt (in NSFW fashion).
“Nicely,” Happ said, via the Wisconsin State Journal, “he said, ‘Go kick some butt.’ ”
Happ got the message, scoring 15 of his team-high 21 points in the second half as Wisconsin upset No. 6 Purdue 57-53.
It was just the volume of points in the second half by Happ either, it was how some of it went down.
Purdue employed the hack-a-Happ idea with the game tight down the stretch, hoping his free throw struggles would give them an opportunity to win the game. Instead, Happ nailed five of the Badgers final eight points to help ice the game away.
This game was far from pretty, with both teams shooting just 39 percent from the field and even uglier numbers from beyond the arc. Wisconsin found open looks from three-point land, but couldn’t hit anything — shooting just 19 percent (4-21). Purdue wasn’t much better at 4 of 17 from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin did a good job of controlling Isaac Haas in this game. The big center scored 12 points and had 11 rebounds, but only managed seven field goal attempts on the night. However, guard Carsen Edwards did everything he could to keep his team in the game, scoring a game-high 22 points on 8 of 19 shooting.
Even if it wasn’t pretty, the win was a beautiful cap on a beautiful night to honor Frank Kaminsky and his jersey number hanging from the rafters for all-time.
It was exactly the message that head coach Greg Gard delivered to his team prior to the game.
“You want to say thanks to Frank, you want to say thanks to all the alumni,” Gard said to his charges. “The best way to show respect and give your thanks and your salute, go out and play really well.”
Maybe they didn’t get to play really well by the numbers, but for a team that had lost nine of its last 11 games, a win over a ranked team was a step in the right direction. It also was a step in the right direction in terms of finally playing quality defense.
“I’ve seen a lot of really good defensive efforts,” Gard said following the game. “This probably ranks right up there in terms of the job they did. They were engaged, they were for the most part in the right spot at the right time. They’ve grown.”
While the Badgers offense couldn’t get hot, the shooting issues didn’t bite the team for a change. UW’s defense came to play in the first half for a change, helping to frustrate Purdue in to a scoring drought that lasted 8 minutes, 33 seconds.
The win was also was another feather in the cap for Gard, whose teams now own eight wins over top 10 opposition in his 88 games as a head coach.
Wisconsin is now 5-10 in Big Ten play and 12-16 overall, sitting two games clear of three teams for the final bye in the Big Ten tournament. With three games left on the year, that two-game cushion could be huge.
The Badgers will go from big upset to big rivalry game next, as they take on Minnesota for the only matchup between the two this year. Tip-off is scheduled for 8pm on Feb. 19 at the Kohl Center and the game can be seen on FS1.