Kivil and Threes

Nankivil made 7-of-8 threes Thursday (Fedie/10)

With Wisconsin needing a post presence to step up with junior Jon Leuer being sidelines, junior Keaton Nankivil showed Thursday why he can be that guy. Tying a school record with seven three-pointers, Nankivil's hot shooting nearly single-handedly carried Wisconsin to a big road win before falling in the final seconds.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Despite the loss, tonight was Keaton Nankivil's night. How could you tell?

The obvious answer is the career-high 25 points that kept No.16 Wisconsin neck-in-neck with No.10 Purdue until the final whistle. The better answer was the reaction of Purdue players during the post game press conference.

When Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson stepped to the podium after Purdue's hard-fought 60-57 victory over Wisconsin Thursday, one would expect the two to focus on the Boilermakers winning the rebounding battle, getting even with Wisconsin for the Badgers' victory over them January 9 or feel exciting that this team has found its groove after four straight conference wins.

Tonight, however, Hummel took one look at the stat sheet and just shook his head. He pointed to Nankivil's stat line and looked at Jackson. Jackson responded, "I know, that's incredible."

When asked what he was shaking his head at, Hummel expressed his amazement. "Keaton Nankivil being 7-of-8 from three," Hummel said. "That was impressive."

Nankivil had a career-high 25 points on 9-of-14 from the field including 7-of-8 from beyond the arc, setting a career high in points, field-goals made, field-goals attempted, three-pointers made, and three-pointers attempted.

"You know it was another one of those situations where we knew how they were going to play the ball screen a little more aggressively," Nankivil said. "(They were) Almost double popping Jordan a lot of time, and they weren't laying off J Bo at all."

With Wisconsin trailing for much of the second half, the Badgers needed someone to step up and make some shots.

"Up to this point I hadn't really proven myself to be able to shoot, so their game plan was to let a center shoot," Nankivil said. "Today just happened to be a good day I guess."

It was more than good and it was timely for the Badgers. Nankivil's seven three-pointers tied a school record for the most three-pointers made in one game, marking the ninth time that has happened in school history. The most recent coming when Jon Bryant hit seven against Fresno State in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, a last time the Badgers made a Final Four.

It's not like he did it against poor competition either.

JaJuan Johnson, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, had the assignment of guarding Nankivil for most of the game. A big defender who is long and makes it difficult for players to shoot over him, although Nankivil didn't have a problem with the challenge.

"I guess JaJuan was trying to hedge and get back the best he could," Hummel said. "The last shot he made, we get back and he still made it."

For Nankivil to have a career night, he needed players to find him, and the Wisconsin guards found him throughout the game.

"I felt like we did a good job for periods of the game with the pick and pop and stuff, especially with Keaton," Bohannon said. "He hit some big shots throughout the game, and when you have a guy shooting like that you have to keep feeding him the ball."

There must be something that Nankivil likes about playing Purdue. His previous career high was last season against Purdue at home, when he scored 21 points and hit five three-pointers. Unfortunately, the end result was the same.

"He was open," Hughes said. "The open guy is supposed to make the open shot, and that was what he was doing. He did a tremendous job hitting the open shot."

With Jon Leuer still out for indefinitely with a wrist injury, the Badgers have desperately needed a big man to step up. Thursday showed that maybe it can be Nankivil.

"It's something that felt good at the time, but now it doesn't feel quite as good," Nankivil explained. "I thought we had some good stuff going, but I guess they made plays down the stretch and we struggled. Other than, just all around, it was just a fun game to be in."

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