Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Big Ten Conference Tournament semifinals open on Saturday with a matchup pitting the fourth-seeded Purdue Boilermakers against the six-ranked and top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers at the United Center.
The winner advances to the conference championship bout, with a league title and an NCAA Tournament automatic bid on the line.
Purdue was able to escape past the red-hot Penn State Nittany Lions Friday in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, 64-59. The Boilermakers have won two games in a row headed into their semifinal clash with the Badgers.
Wisconsin struggled to put ninth-seeded Michigan away for a majority of Friday's quarterfinal-round contest. But the Badgers caught fire down the stretch, and ended up advancing thanks to a 71-60 victory.
The two teams met only once during the regular season back in early January in Madison. The Boilermakers put up a tough fight on the road, but in the end fell to the host Badgers by a 62-55 margin.
Penn State, fresh off a victory over Iowa on Thursday in the conference tournament, held a 37-32 advantage over Purdue in Friday's clash at halftime. But the Boilermakers battled back by holding the Nittany Lions to 26.9 percent shooting in the second period. Big man A.J. Hammons led the charge for Purdue with 23 points and nine rebounds, also adding in four blocked shots. Rapheal Davis added 13 points in the win, while Jon Octeus grabbed 11 boards and scored nine points for Purdue.
As the fourth seed, Purdue earned a bye right into the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten postseason. The Boilermakers ended their regular-season campaign netting 70.7 ppg, and allowed only 64.5 ppg to opponents prior to Friday's clash. Hammons paced the Boilermakers in both scoring (11.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg) during the season. In Purdue's loss to Wisconsin during the season, the Boilermakers connected on 51 percent of their shots from the floor, but were outscored from the free-throw line, 25-3, in the eventual loss.
Both Wisconsin and Michigan shot at least 50 percent from the floor in the second half of Friday's quarterfinal clash, but the Badgers outscored the Wolverines from the free-throw line in the second half, 10-0, to help them pull ahead for the win. In the entire contest, Michigan was held scoreless from the charity stripe, going 0-of-2 from the line. Frank Kaminsky netted a double-double to help the Badgers, netting 16 points with 12 rebounds. Sam Dekker led the way for Wisconsin, scoring 17 points with six boards and six assists.
Kaminsky, the Big Ten Player of the Year and a finalist for the Wooden Award, entered Friday's quarterfinal game netting a team-high 18.4 ppg with an 8.1 rpg mark. The Badgers as a unit went into the clash with the Wolverines averaging 71.7 ppg on 48 percent shooting. The Badgers haven't won a Big Ten title since 2008, and only defeated Purdue by seven points at home in the regular season, able to escape thanks to Kaminsky's 21-point effort.