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Purdue Defeats Wisconsin, Earns #4 Seed And Double Bye In Big Ten Tourney

Stan Jastrzebski

Imagine a prize fight where there are no jabs thrown, only haymakers -- and where no matter how staggered each combatant looks, there's a sense neither is out of the fight until the final signal sounds.

Oh, and imagine the referees seem unwilling to stop the contest very often to let each side tend to its wounds.

Such was the first half of the final regular season tilt between Purdue and Wisconsin Sunday.

The teams combined to shoot 60-percent in the opening 20 minutes. At the same time, just seven first-half fouls were calls (only two of those on Purdue).

Wisconsin's first three possessions portended the long-range shooting that would dominate the half. The visitors took three-point shots on each of their first three trips down the court (hitting two), and the two teams  were on their way to combining for 15 made threes in 20 minutes.

Five of those came on six first-half shots from Purdue point guard P.J. Thompson, including one just before the halftime buzzer sounded, to give the Boilermakers a 45-39 lead as they headed to the locker room.

Earlier in the day, Purdue had gotten some help in its quest for a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament from a somewhat unlikely source -- rival and number one tourney seed Indiana. The Hoosiers soundly defeated Maryland 80-62, giving the Boilers a chance to sneak into the number four seed if they knocked off the Badgers (who came in winners of ten of their last 11).

Again, coach Matt Painter's team was frustrated by a full-court press, as it has been in several Big Ten games this season. Even with Purdue shooting two foul shots on every infraction for the last six minutes of the second half, Wisconsin intermittently deployed its defense in the backcourt and dared Purdue's guards to escape. The Badgers did cut into what had been as much as a 15-point lead, trimming the margin to as few as seven points, but they could not get all the way back, eventually succumbing 91-80.

The win was Purdue's 17th at home, setting a record for most home wins in a season.

On Senior Night, Purdue opened the scoring with a dunk from A.J. Hammons, playing his last game at home. For the game, Hammons was one of four Boilers who scored in double figures -- a list led by a freshman, Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan became a mainstay at the free throw line in the second half, racking up 14 of his 27 points there.

Wisconsin was led by junior forward Nigel Hayes, who led all scorers with 30 points. With the loss, the Badgers fall to the number six seed in the Big Ten Tournament, where they'll play the winner of Wednesday's game between Nebraska and Rutgers.

The Boilermakers, with their double bye, won't play until Friday, where they'll face either Illinois, Minnesota or Iowa.