Purdue tops Illinois, clinches outright Big Ten title

The No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers (27-3, 16-3 Big Ten) edged No. 12 Illinois (22-8, 13-6 Big Ten) 77-71 Tuesday night, clinching the outright Big Ten regular season title for the second consecutive season.

Standout guard Braden Smith drilled the late dagger, pulling up and hitting a three-pointer to make it a two-possession game with 18 seconds remaining.

Though Illinois controlled the contest throughout, a dominant late surge by the Boilermakers proved too much for the Fighting Illini. The win yet again crowns Purdue as the Big Ten’s best, again setting the program up for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

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The Wisconsin-related story here: what a gigantic missed opportunity this season is becoming.

The Badgers entered February ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll and leading the Big Ten standings with an 8-1 record. Since that point, the team is 2-7 with losses to everyone from Purdue to last-place Michigan. The team has crashed down to earth after appearing to be a Final Four contender just five weeks ago.

Could Wisconsin have outlasted Purdue all season? Who knows. But the Badgers were setting the pace just 33 days ago. Now, Greg Gard’s team is down to fifth in the conference standings and no longer a double-bye team in the Big Ten Tournament.

Wisconsin led the Big Ten entering February. It will finish more than six games behind Purdue in the final standings. That’s startling context for Wisconsin’s fall.

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Story originally appeared on Badgers Wire