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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern can’t overcome strong opposing shooting, loses to Wisconsin 82-76

The Badgers made it rain on Wednesday night.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Chase Audige’s 23 point game, shooting 3-4 for three, and some obscure late events, No. 8 Wisconsin’s (15-2, 6-1 B1G) staggering 51.9 percent field goal and 52.9 percent three-point shooting was simply too strong for Northwestern (9-7, 2-5 B1G) to pull off another top 10 takedown, as the Badgers prevailed, 82-76.

For Wisconsin, top NBA prospect Jonny Davis added 27 points and 8 rebounds. Boo Buie chipped in 19 for the ‘Cats, including three from deep.

Neither team was off to a good shooting start early in the first half, but Northwestern was able to break out of an early slump to grab a 11-7 lead four minutes in, backed by Buie’s five points and Audige’s four. Soon enough, it was tied up at 11 after Chucky Hepburn made a layup and Davis hit a pair of free throws, but back-to-back buckets by Ryan Young brought the ‘Cats up by four again.

Travel and fouls set in, giving the Badgers their first lead since 2-0 at the 10-minute mark, but an Audige three-pointer brought the ‘Cats back up two, only for the visitors to tie it up again a minute later and then put the ‘Cats back down again before the under-eight minute media timeout.

It was a back-and-forth affair for the a bit more of the first half, but, sparked by incredible three-point shooting, the Badgers started to exert heavy offensive pressure, extending their lead to 30-24 with just under four minutes left.

The Badgers were electric from three, shooting 75 percent from behind the arc in the first half. The last of UW’s three-pointers was one Hepburn converted from well past the half-court line to put Wisconsin up 41-35 at half. While Chase Audige had 16 points at the break, including two big threes, it just wasn’t enough for Northwestern to hang with the No. 8 team in the nation in the first 20 minutes.

The second half started relatively slow for both teams, but a sharp set of possessions that saw Northwestern go 3-for-3 on consecutive shots allowed the Wildcats to cut the UW lead to 49-43, until Davis knocked down another three and put the Badgers up by nine again.

All of the sudden, Buie started to light up with a big three, followed by two makes on what somehow managed to be Northwestern’s first free throw attempt of the game to make it a four-point contest, but the ‘Cats fell deeper into foul trouble, giving the Badgers fruitful opportunities at the line and leaving the score at 61-54 at the under 12.

After a lane violation, Ryan Young and the Badgers traded made free throw shots that left the score at 65-59. Finally, Julian Roper silenced a bout of cheers from Wisconsin’s traveling fans with a three and brought the ‘Cats within five to make it a two possession game. Alas, the Badgers continued to hit their shots, and missed free throws from the Wildcats led to a Wisconsin scoring run to make it 71-66 with five minutes left.

Both teams missed their fair share of shots in the last three minutes, but the ‘Cats, but NU’s late hopes were killed when the Badgers nailed two deep buckets (one from three) on consecutive possessions to take a 10-point lead with 1:44 to play.

All hope seemed lost for the Wildcats until two three pointers from Buie and Audige suddenly narrowed the deficit to four with under a minute to go. On the ensuing Wisconsin possession, Audige seemed to snatch the ball from Davis cleanly but was called for a reach-in. The call drew the ire of Chris Collins and the home crowd and effectively ended the ‘Cats chances, as Wisconsin soon shut the door.

Northwestern will next face its third straight top-ten opponent when they visit No. 4 Purdue on Sunday before meeting Illinois at home on Jan. 29.