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Wildcats Fall to No. 8 Wisconsin 82-76

Northwestern made the game close all the way to the final buzzer, but ultimately dropped their fifth conference game of the season.

The Northwestern Wildcats (9-7, 2-5) fell to the No. 8-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (15-2, 6-1) in a 82-76 game that went down to the wire. It was also the first game Northwestern students have been able to attend since Christmas Break and their presence made for an electrifying environment.

The Wildcats had all the momentum on Tuesday night, coming off of their upset against then-ranked No.10 Michigan State, and rode that momentum to an early 7-2 lead within the first three minutes of play against the Badgers.

It took Wisconsin nine minutes to even the score at 18, but Northwestern struggled to regain the lead from that point on.

Freshman guard Chucky Hepburn and senior guard Brad Davison were instrumental to the Badgers taking control. Davison finished the first half of play with 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting and Hepburn added 10 on 4-of-6 shooting including a halfcourt heave to end the half.

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Purdue starting pitcher Troy Wansing mixed his pitches well all afternoon as the Boilermakers capitalized on a quality 5.2 innings from their Sunday starter to pull out a series victory against Northwestern, 7-2.

While Northwestern played the Badgers close in almost every statistical category in the first half, the main difference was in the three point and free throw shooting. The Badgers made six of their eight first half three pointers and were a perfect five-for-five from the line while the Wildcats didn’t attempt a single shot from the line in the first half and were only 3-for-11 from three.

The two sides finished the second half with 41 points apiece. Wisconsin shot 54% from the field in the second half but took a step back in terms of three point efficiency, shooting only 33% from three. Northwestern drastically improved from three, making four of their nine attempts after their poor shooting in the first 20 minutes of play. The Wildcats did get to the line more in the second half, but made only three of their eight attempts.

 Northwestern was able to make it close in the second half in large part because of junior guard Chase Audige’s performance. He finished the night with 23 points and almost came up with a steal in an important moment, but was called for a foul that essentially sealed the game.

Senior forward Pete Nance played 31 minutes in his return to action after missing Saturday’s win against Michigan State. Nance finished the night with 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Junior guard Boo Buie also had an impressive showing in the loss, scoring 19 points on 7-for-17 shooting.

Northwestern’s schedule this week won’t get any easier. On Sunday the Wildcats travel to West Lafayette to take on No.4 ranked Purdue.