“That’s impressive,” Purdue’s standout Robbie Hummel said of Nankivil’s numbers.
But when the Badgers (16-5, 6-3) needed a basket while trailing by a point in the final seconds, guard Trevon Hughes took the shot.
Hughes, a 6-foot guard, missed a bank shot after Purdue’s 6-foot-10 junior center JaJuan Johnson and 6-8 Hummel rotated over, and Johnson rebounded.
Johnson was fouled with a second left and made both free throws. The Boilermakers intercepted Wisconsin’s long inbounds pass from under its basket to seal the 60-57 win over the No. 16 Badgers.
No. 10-ranked Purdue (17-3, 5-3 Big Ten) avoided a season sweep by Wisconsin and avenged a 73-66 Jan. 5 loss in Madison that ended a 14-0 start to its season.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was fine with Hughes taking the shot, “The shot I look for is the one that goes through the bottom of the net,” Ryan said. “If you know your history, it’s probably not a bad guy to have the ball in his hands.”
The matchup of Big Ten contenders featured back-and-forth runs.
Nankivil was 9 for 14 overall, but his teammates went 11 for 36 from the field.
The 6-8 junior was a 21-percent three-point shooter before nailing 7 of 8 attempts Thursday night, a follow-up to the 5-for-5 showing he had last year against Purdue.
“If you’re open, shoot,” Ryan said. “I’m pretty easy. Shoot. Was he open?”
Hummel fell one rebound short of his career high. He was forced to carry much of the rebounding load because Nankivil pulled Johnson away from the basket. Purdue out rebounded Wisconsin 37-25.
Johnson scored 14 and Hummel had 12 points, 13 rebounds and five assists for the Boilermakers, who won their third straight and moved within a half-game of Wisconsin for second place in the conference. A loss would have left Purdue four games behind league leader Michigan State with 10 to play.
Purdue coach Matt Painter had been unhappy with some of his veterans, but he went to them when the Boilermakers needed a game-saving defensive stop, and they delivered.
“When it comes to the end of the game, experience definitely comes in,” Purdue junior guard E’Twaun Moore said. “Just keep your composure, just play and just defend. The guys did a good job of completing the game.”
Wisconsin’s guard trio of Hughes, Jordan Taylor and Jason Bohannon combined for 57 points in a home victory over Purdue earlier this month. The Boilermakers held them to 25 points on 8-for-28 shooting this time.
“We didn’t do nothing differently, we just guarded better,” Moore said. “That’s it. We knew their guards were very aggressive off the bounce and looking to score, so we knew every time they caught the ball, we’ve got to be ready and be ready to keep them in front of us.”
Painter has been tinkering with his lineup in recent games, trying to find a rotation that would play with the passion Purdue has become known for. Johnson didn’t start Thursday because he showed up late. Painter took senior Chris Kramer out of the starting lineup against Illinois, and another senior, Keaton Grant, had lost his starting job to freshman Kelsey Barlow.
All three were in for the final 6 seconds against the Badgers.
Moore, who led the Boilermakers with 20 points, scored in the lane with 25.2 seconds left to give Purdue a 58-57 lead. Wisconsin worked the clock down for a shot and Hughes missed badly on a pull-up jumper, but the ball bounced out of bounds off a Purdue player with 6 seconds to play.
Johnson checked back into the game, and he made a difference, bothering Hughes on his final attempt.
“I was fortunate the ball bounced my way a few times,” Hummel said. “It was just one of those nights where it seemed like the ball was coming my way. We had to steal possessions and the only way we could do that was rebounding. It probably won the game for us.”
Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson played for first time this season. Jackson, who started as a freshman last season, injured his left foot during the preseason.
Wisconsin held Purdue scoreless for the first 5:44 of the second half to take a 34-27 lead.
The Boilermakers rallied quickly. A putback tip and a 3-pointer by reserve John Hart, then two free throws by Hummel tied the score at 38 with 11 minutes left. Moore’s layup gave the lead back to Purdue and prompted Wisconsin to call timeout.
The Boilermakers pushed the lead to 56-49 before Wisconsin started chipping away. A 3-pointer by Nankivil cut it to 56-52, then a steal and layup by Taylor made it a two-point game.
Another 3 by Nankivil with 42 seconds left gave Wisconsin a 57-56 lead and set up the frantic ending.
Painter liked the fact that the Boilermakers won with their defense.
“We really try to emphasize with our guys, even though E’Twaun Moore made a huge basket down the stretch, more times than not you’re getting a defensive stop to win a game than you are scoring a basket,” Painter said.