Badgers edge Purdue to claim share of Big Ten title

Hepburn’s banked 3-pointer the difference
Steve Megargee
The Associated Press

Chucky Hepburn tried to keep a straight face as the freshman insisted he knew his game-winning 3-pointer was accurate as soon as he took the shot.

The laughter from his teammates told a different story.

Hepburn banked in a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to give No. 10 Wisconsin a 70-67 victory over No. 8 Purdue on March 1 that clinched the Badgers a share of the Big Ten regular season title.

“I knew we were about to be Big Ten champs after I released it,” Hepburn said before breaking out a grin.

The Badgers have plenty of reason to smile.

Wisconsin (24-5, 15-4 Big Ten) has won five straight and now has at least a share of its 20th Big Ten regular-season title. A victory March 6 at home against Nebraska would give the Badgers their first outright conference title since 2015, when they went on to reach the championship game.

Throughout its surprising season, Wisconsin’s heard criticism that it’s been lucky because it has won so many close games. This time, even the Badgers themselves could laugh at Hepburn’s good fortune.

“I’m not going to lie,” Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis said during the wild postgame celebration. “That was some bull… when that went in.”

Each of Wisconsin’s last two baskets came on bank shots. Davis banked in a jumper from just inside the 3-point line to extend Wisconsin’s lead to 67-64 with 25 seconds left.

“In terms of what we did at the end of the game, I wouldn’t trade anything,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “I thought our defense on Johnny Davis when he banked it in was good. I thought our defense on Hepburn when he banked it in was good. You get beat by two good shots that are so far off they bank in, it’s bad luck right there.”

After Wisconsin’s Brad Davison missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey tied the game by sinking a 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds remaining. The Badgers worked the ball to Hepburn, who calmly fired the winning shot from in front of Wisconsin’s bench.

Hepburn celebrated by running toward the student section on the opposite end of the floor with his arms outstretched. The freshman guard finished the night with a career-high 17 points.

“He’s had a moxie and a calm to him all year,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “He plays beyond his age, so to speak. At that position, that’s difficult. It’s like being a freshman quarterback.”

As Purdue tried to set up a desperation 3-point attempt, Wisconsin’s Tyler Wahl intercepted Trevion Williams’ inbounds pass. Wahl threw the ball aloft as the horn sounded and Wisconsin’s students stormed the court. That student section had created a raucous environment all night long.

“It was so loud at one point my ears were literally ringing,” Davis said.

All season long, Wisconsin has figured out a way to make winning plays when a game’s on the line.

The Badgers have won each of the last 15 times they’ve played a game that was decided by six points or fewer. Wisconsin’s only loss in those types of games was a 63-58 home decision against No. 11 Providence on Nov. 15 when a lower-body injury prevented Davis from playing.

The Badgers also completed first regular season sweep of the Boilermakers (24-6, 13-6) since 2014, as the Badgers won 74-69 at Purdue on Jan. 3.

Wahl scored 19 points for Wisconsin, and Davis had 16 points and eight rebounds.