MADISON, Wis. – Even after the game, Trevon Hughes had all the answers.
Hughes had 19 of his career-high 26 points in the second half and Wisconsin’s 73-69 win over No. 6 Duke on Wednesday night snapped the Blue Devils’ perfect mark in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“The Big Ten’s never won, and I think we won it?” teammate Keaton Nankivil asked postgame.
There was Hughes, right on cue: “Yeah, and the first time Duke lost.”
With Illinois’ 76-74 rally over Clemson and Ohio State’s 77-64 victory over Florida State in the final game, the Big Ten won the 11-year series for the first time, 6-5.
“I’m proud to be a part of the conference when they win something,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “We’re in it to try to win it.”
It was especially sweet for the Badgers (5-1), who never trailed and got a measure of payback against Duke (6-1) after being routed 82-58 two years ago in a challenge game in Durham, N.C. Wisconsin’s win ended the Blue Devils’ 10-0 streak in the annual event and helped end the ACC’s perfect 10-0 record as well.
“It’s a point of pride to know that we had something to do with that in a game a lot of people probably didn’t think we were going to win,” Nankivil said. “It was pretty special.”
Kyle Singler scored 17 of his career-high 28 points in the first half for the Blue Devils and Andre Dawkins went 4 of 4 from 3-point range in the second half to finish with 12. Duke cut Wisconsin’s 11-point lead with just over 5 minutes left to 70-69 with 5.7 seconds to play on a tip-in by Singler.
But after Hughes hit two free throws to make it 72-69, Singler’s inbounds pass to Jon Scheyer was too hard and skipped away. Jordan Taylor’s free throw was the final margin.
Wisconsin only committed five turnovers.
“That’s five opportunities you didn’t get a shot at the basket,” Ryan said. “They had 11 opportunities that they didn’t have to score. That might have been the difference in the game.”
Duke had led the nation in field goal percentage defense coming in and were allowing an average of 58.2 points in their first six games. But in the Blue Devils’ first true road game, Hughes kept slashing the lane and when Duke gave him a little space, he’d hit 3-pointers.
“Their offense just beat our defense,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Wisconsin went up 59-54 with 7:40 left when Hughes hit two free throws and the only thing that slowed the senior point guard was when he was inadvertently hit in the face with just under 6 minutes to play.
“Yeah, I got hit with an elbow,” Hughes said. “I was checking for blood. It would’ve been my first nose bleed ever.”
Hughes came back and hit a 3-pointer that rolled around the rim with 5:08 to go, giving the Badgers their biggest lead at 65-54 until Dawkins answered with three 3-pointers in a span of less than 2 minutes to cut the lead to 67-65.
Duke had a couple of chances to tie it, but never could in the closing moments, only cutting it to 70-69 on Singler’s tap-in in the waning seconds.
“I got a lot of buckets going to the basket, and I got to the free throw line,” said Singler, who didn’t want to talk about his new scoring mark. “That’s about it.”
Wisconsin improved to 123-10 at the Kohl Center under Ryan and got 17 points and seven rebounds from Jon Leuer. Jason Bohannon added 10 points for the Badgers.
Duke cut it to 53-52 on two free throws by Singler with just under 11 minutes to go, but Singler missed a 3-pointer moments later that would have tied it and Wisconsin opened up the 11-point lead.
Duke would’ve been in a much bigger hole had it not been for Singler, who hit floating one-handed shots in the lane with both his left and right hands on his way to 17 first-half points.
Singler hit his first six shots and finished 10 of 17 from the field. But the rest of the Blue Devils, who shot just 29.2 percent in a win over Connecticut on Friday, only hit 39 percent and Scheyer finished 2 of 7 with 10 points.
“I don’t think we did a good job of just staying patient. They did a good job, didn’t give us a lot of open looks and there just wasn’t much there,” Scheyer said. “We need to know that every game we play, no one’s going to give us a game, every team’s going to fight.”