"We've been talking all year round about how we have guys that people might not think twice about just because they might not be the big names," said Taylor of Evans' performance. "Ryan has been saying what he can do for this team all year long, and he showed it tonight. He can even add from there."
The first half was a slow one offensively for both teams but the Badgers were able to put together a 15-3 run in taking a 27-19 lead into the locker room. Wisconsin outscored Purdue 12-6 in the paint in that half while also scoring nine points off of 10 Purdue turnovers. The Boilermakers were able to get right back into the game after the intermission, going on a 14-4 run to start the second half. Johnson, who scored just six points in the first half, put up 16 in the final 20 minutes as he was able to find better looks offensively. But while the Boilers led by as many as seven in the second half the Badgers refused to go away, eventually regaining the lead and wrapping up the victory with some good defense late.
"I think we just toughened up a little bit," said Taylor of their late-game defense. " Everybody who was guarding them just did a great job staying tough. Those guys are going to get their points and the team is going to get their points. The main thing is to stay tough and try to make them uncomfortable. We did a good job of that."
The win moves Wisconsin into a tie in the loss column with Purdue for second place, although Matt Painter's team has seven wins to the Badgers' six, making that second meeting (February 16th in West Lafayette) all the more important. Wisconsin won the battle on the boards 32-25, and limiting Purdue to just three second-chance points also played a role in the outcome due to the defensive nature of the game. Can either team catch Ohio State? That's tough to say with the Buckeyes enjoying a three-game edge but both get their shot at Ohio State on their home floors later this month, so the door remains open. (quotes courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics)
Other Notable Happenings
1. Florida holds off Vanderbilt in overtime to remain first in the SEC East.
Before getting into the reasons why Florida was able to beat Vanderbilt in Gainesville this needs to be said: John Jenkins was fouled on that three-point attempt from the top of the key. How much of an impact that missed call had on the outcome can be debated for days on end, but the important fact is that the Gators picked up the win 65-61, keeping them atop the SEC East standings. Kenny Boynton's three with 1:04 remaining in the extra session put the Gators up 63-61, setting the stage for a missed call that in many circles would be seen as inexcusable. Jenkins led all scorers with 22 points while Chandler Parsons led Florida with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but the Commodores got into some trouble with Jeffrey Taylor shooting 2-for-12 off the bench. If Taylor approaches his usual numbers (14.8 ppg, 45.6% FG) that's likely an important road victory for Kevin Stallings' club. But Florida got the job done, once again winning a close contest (now 7-3 in games decided by six points or less) and setting themselves up for a run at the division title.
2. Penn State loses at Illinois but the loss of Jeff Brooks could hurt more.
There wasn't much surprise expressed in the Nittany Lions falling at Illinois by the final score of 68-51. The Illini are a talented group that plays much better at home than on the road, and they were bound to want to get back on the right track at the expense of a team that beat them just three weeks prior. It's hard enough for Ed DeChellis' team to win when Talor Battle struggles from the field (4-for-11 last night), but the loss of Jeff Brooks could be one that has a devastating impact if he's out for an extended period of time. Brooks dislocated his right shoulder just before halftime, and the opportunity to either remain down by just five or close the gap even more was lost. Penn State would get no closer than six points the rest of the way and Mike Davis scored 24 points to lead the Illini. Illinois needs consistency from their three veterans of note: Davis, Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale if they're to get back to the level of play many expect of them if they're to make a dent come NCAA Tournament time. But what about Penn State? Losing Brooks is critical, especially for a team that hasn't established much in terms of road victories although they've got some close calls to their credit. With Michigan, Michigan State (road) and Northwestern coming up the Lions likely need that game in East Lansing in order to become a solid factor in the bubble discussion.
3. North Carolina keeps rolling, whipping Boston College in Chestnut Hill.
Roy Williams' team took the momentum gained in Saturday's pasting of NC State and built on it in exceptional fashion, shooting 57% from the field and assisting on 27 of their 39 made baskets in thrashing the Eagles 106-74 in what could be their most impressive performance of the season. Harrison Barnes established his career-high for the second consecutive game with 26 points and five other players scored at least eight points for the Tar Heels, and defensively Boston College was able to shoot just 35% from the field. Joe Trapani played well for the Eagles but for the second consecutive game Reggie Jackson struggled mightily and without a guard considered to be a First Team All-ACC performer after the first half of the season playing his best Steve Donahue's team is in trouble. But the credit goes to North Carolina, who imposed their will offensively in the first half and didn't let up until the game ended. Next up for Carolina is an important game with Florida State on Super Sunday, and a win there could have them playing for sole possession of first place in the ACC when they visit rival Duke next Wednesday night.
Top Three Games
1. Florida 65, Vanderbilt 61 (OT)
2. Ole Miss 71, (11) Kentucky 69 A Chris Warren three pointer with 2.9 seconds remaining gave the Rebels a much-needed home victory. Warren led the way with 22 points while Terrence Jones led Kentucky with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
3. Marshall 63, Houston 62 DeAndre Kane led the Thundering Herd with 24 points and nine rebounds but it was Aundra Williams who played the role of hero, as his two points came on a layup with 11 seconds to go to win the game. Alandise Harris and Maurice McNeil scored 16 apiece to lead Houston.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Julian Mavunga (Miami-Ohio) 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the RedHawks' 89-75 win over Ball State.
2. F John Holland (Boston University) 24 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in the Terriers' 88-78 win over Maine.
3. F Joe Trapani (Boston College) 25 points, 15 rebounds and three assists in the Eagles' 106-74 loss to North Carolina.