MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gene Keady has some spunk left, even near the end of his frustrating farewell season.
Keady defended the Big Ten from critics who say the league is down this year, and he pointed to Wisconsin forward Mike Wilkinson as the type of smart, skilled student-athlete it still produces."I told him he's what college sports is all about," Keady said of his postgame chat with Wilkinson, who led Wisconsin to a 64-52 win over Purdue on Saturday that ensured the Boilermakers of the first 20-loss season in the program's 107-year history."He got better, graduated on time. He's what it's all about," Keady said. "I think he'd be great on an NBA team. I'd love to have him. He's like Brian Cardinal, except he's better on the inside."Wilkinson, one of the most versatile players in the country, was touched by Keady's kind words."They mean a lot. He's been around for a long time," Wilkinson said. "He's seen a lot of players come and go in this league. It was just an honor to go against his team for four years."As for the Big Ten's detractors, Keady said the league deserves to send six teams to the NCAA Tournament -- Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana."I get tired of hearing commentators say the Big Ten is down," Keady said, raising his voice. "They've never even coached in this league. This is a tremendous league. We've got great fans, great venues."Even if one of its greatest coaches isn't going out like he wanted.Wilkinson and Alando Tucker each scored 14 points -- Tucker's all came in the first half -- and Kammron Taylor added 11 for the 23rd-ranked Badgers (20-7, 11-5 Big Ten).David Teague's 17 points led the Boilermakers (7-20, 3-13 Big Ten). They will play at least one more game for Keady, who's retiring after 25 seasons at Purdue, at the Big Ten tournament in Chicago.The Badgers recorded their third straight 20-win season, a first in their own 107-year history, and secured a No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.Before the game, Badgers coach Bo Ryan presented Keady with engraved golf clubs and a vacation package to Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis., site of last year's PGA championship.Then the Badgers gave Keady's team a rude welcome, jumping out to a 24-point first-half lead.The short-handed Boilermakers were no match for the Badgers without Carl Landry, their leading scorer and rebounder, who tore a ligament in his right knee last week in Keady's last game at Mackey Arena.It took Purdue 13 minutes to reach double figures in scoring -- by that time Tucker, who didn't even start because it was senior day, had 14 by himself.The Badgers' 40-19 halftime lead was enough of a cushion to withstand a rally by the Boilermakers in the second half, when they outscored the Badgers 21-7. The run was sparked by Teague's trio of 3-pointers, the last one of which pulled Purdue to 56-47 with 3½ minutes remaining.Taylor sank two foul shots and a 3-pointer to restore Wisconsin's double-digit lead.Keady was so upset with his team's first-half play that he inserted reserves Xavier Price, Adam Liddell and Charles Davis into the starting lineup after halftime."We asked 'em who wanted to start and five guys put up their hands and the first five got to start," Keady said. "Probably the first time in 47 years I've ever done that."His team responded."We played the second half like we can play," Keady said. "Took good shots, set good screens. We played right. We played harder."The Badgers, who ended a 29-game losing streak at Mackey Arena in January, beat Purdue for the seventh straight time at home, where they improved to 58-3 under Ryan.