MADISON - It took a flurry of plays down the stretch for Wisconsin to pull away from an energized Purdue squad inside the Kohl Center.
Forget about the whipping winds and pounding blizzard outside, the folks that made the trek through the snow had to have liked the way Jon Leuer carried his team.
The Badger senior scored 24 points and logged 13 rebounds as his team rallied from a seven-point second half deficit to knock off No. 10 Purdue 66-59 inside a rowdy, albeit somewhat lonely arena.
"It just feels good to help this team," Leuer said. "Especially in a crucial game for us. Every home game in the Big Ten is huge, and on the road, too, but it just felt good to help my teammates and we had a lot of guys step up.
"That was a fun win for us."
It was also a win that didn't necessarily look like it was in the cards at various junctures.
Though UW started the second frame with a 27-19 edge, Purdue was quick to pounce on a lackadaisical Badger defensive effort in the early going of the second half. As a result, the Boilers stormed out of the gates and jumped on Wisconsin with a 18-7 run during the opening five minutes of the second period.
Eventually, the Boilermakers, led by a steady JaJuan Johnson and explosive E'Twaun Moore opened a seven-point margin with just less than 12 minutes to play.
"It's a 40 minute game and we need to be better," UW head coach Bo Ryan, who saw his team win its 15th straight at home, said. "I didn't think we did a very good job in the second half. We'll have to take a look at why and angles and positioning, pressure on the ball and no pressure on the ball. Just take a look at some things."
Though the Badger defense gave up more points in the opening five minutes of the second half than it did the entire opening 20 minutes, it eventually hardened and forced misses when it needed to most.
Offensively, some unusual suspects did some of the heavy lifting.
Ryan Evans, who averaged just 2.7 points per game entering Tuesday, chipped in 10, including a momentum-changing alley-oop and game changing jumper from the free throw line in the waning moments.
Following an easy lay-in from D.J. Byrd, Evans calmly received a pass near the charity stripe and without hesitation pulled the trigger. Though there had to have been some anxious fans in the announced attendance of 9,739, Evans was not one of them.
"No, I wasn't," Evans, who hit 5-of-9 shots, said. "I was kind of able to gain some confidence throughout. Jordan threw me a lob and we were able to get some defensive stops. It kind of just compounded.
"I was able to knock it down for us."
The make gave the Badgers a 60-59 lead with 50 seconds left to play, but it took a solid defensive and even better rebounding effort to extend the lead. On Purdue's ensuing possession, it looked as though Johnson had a solid look to retake the lead. But when the senior All-American candidate missed the shot, Leuer collected one of his 13 boards and calmly knocked down a pair of free throws.
The rest was history.
Throughout the final minutes the best free throw shooting team in the Big Ten connected on 4-of-6 attempts. Though below it's season average, it was more than enough to get out of a cozy Kohl Center with a win.
"They're a good team and one of the best offensive teams in the league led by two of the best players in the league," Taylor, who finished with 15 points and five assists, said. "They got away from us a little bit and we let them get a little too comfortable but Keaton Nankivil, Jon, Tim Jarmusz and Josh did a great job of just staying tough. Those guys are going to get their points and their whole team is going to get their points.
"The main thing is staying tough and keeping them uncomfortable. We did that for the most part during the last 10 minutes."
Smith plays big….again:
With things seemingly slipping away from a Badger team that not only doesn't lose at home very often, but one that hasn't lost following a loss in 19 straight attempts, it wasn't Leuer or Taylor or Nankivil that came to the rescue.
It was 5-foot-10 Wquinton Smith.
The senior walk-on came in and played physical defense on one of the quicker guards in all of the Big Ten. Eventually, when fighting for a lose ball, the frustration mounting within Lewis Jackson came to the forefront.
"We like tough guys on this team because coach Bo Ryan likes that," freshman Josh Gasser, who scored 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, said. "That's something that Q brings to the team when he's out there. He's only out there for a few minutes sometimes but when he is he makes the most of it. He took a charge and he got into a little scuffle.
"That just gets everyone motivated."
Not only was Smith ruffling some feathers with Purdue's signal caller, he also did some dirty work in the defensive paint.
Trailing by one point with just less than eight minutes to play, it looked as though Moore had an open lane to the rim. That was until Smith slid under him and took an impressive charge near the baseline.
That type of defensive tenacity earned him a nice ovation as he took to the bench and sparked his team to a decisive 18-10 run over the final seven minutes of the contest.
-With a massive winter weather event plaguing most of southern Wisconsin, it was interesting to see the dynamic of the crowd. Though there were plenty of empty seats, it seemed as though the turnstile estimate of 9,739 was a little low. It seemed more than 8,000 empty seats being attributed was a bit high.
-Nonetheless, Tuesday's sellout (ticket sales) marked the 133rd such event at the Kohl Center. UW is 12-0 at the Kohl Center this season, with wins by an average of 19.9 points per game.
-UW has won 15-straight games inside the Kohl Center and 33 of its last 34. The current streak is tied for 12th nationally and the second-longest active streak in the Big Ten.
-The Badgers have now won 19 consecutive games following a loss. UW hasn't lost back-to-back games since January of 2009.
-UW's seven-point deficit overcome was the largest second-half turnaround in a win for the Badgers this season.
-Wisconsin out-rebounded Purdue 32-25, holding the Boilermakers to their second-lowest rebounding total of the season.
-For 38 straight home game, UW's opponent (non-overtime) failed to reach the 70-point plateau. UW and Ohio State are currently tied for the longest such streak in the nation.
-UW and Fairfield are the only two teams in the country not to have allowed an opponent to score 70 points this season.
-For the third consecutive game Wisconsin has held its opponent to 20 points or less in a half.
-Jon Leuer's 24-point effort marked the 28th straight game he's finished with double figures. His 13 rebounds tied a career high.
-By going 2-for-4 from downtown Tuesday night, Keaton Nankivil is now 14-of-20 (.700) on 3s in his career against Purdue.
Ryan on Smith's tussle with Jackson:
"I didn't even see it. I've seen angry. I didn't see angry there. I didn't see it. I really don't know. I can ask my power forward that played with me. Herb, (talking to his friend at the back of the room) did you see anything we hadn't seen out there at Wilkes? You're looking at a guy that hit a guy once and put the guy out for a week. The guy hit him first though. We won't get into that. It was just a misunderstanding. I didn't see anything. I said to the official what happened, he said, 'Nothing.' If the official tells me nothing then I've got to believe nothing…..It was Scranton, our archrival. There's a guy you don't want to mess with."