MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The biggest challenge yet this season for Marquette's freshmen-laden lineup couldn't have come in a tougher environment, on the road in a hostile venue against in-state rival Wisconsin.
The Golden Eagles passed their test, with big men Luke Fischer and Henry Ellenson leading the way.
Ellenson had 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Fischer scored 12 points and converted an offensive rebound with 27 seconds left to help Marquette hold on for a 57-55 win on Saturday.
"I wouldn't trade them for any frontcourt in the country," coach Steve Wojciechowski said.
After Fischer's putback broke a 55-all tie, the Badgers fouled quickly following forward Nigel Hayes' missed 3. Haanif Cheatham missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but the long rebound off the back iron caromed to the 6-foot-11 Fischer.
The Golden Eagles missed another 1-and-1, but one last try for Wisconsin ended with 0.5 seconds left when an inbounds pass from midcourt sailed out of play.
Marquette (8-2) won its seventh straight game. This was a confidence-building win for a team that starts three freshmen, including in-state prospect Ellenson — the jewel of Wojciechowski's recruiting class.
"This is bragging rights. I wanted to show who the best team is in the state," the 6-foot-11 Ellenson said.
His team let a 14-point lead in the second half slip away before finishing strong on the road.
Vitto Brown had 15 points for Wisconsin (6-5), which tied the game at 55 on a jumper by Hayes with 51 seconds left.
"That poise they showed when Marquette had everything going for them ... there are teams that would not have come back like our guys did," coach Bo Ryan said.
But the Badgers came up a bucket short. They already have more losses than all of last season, when they went 36-4 and advanced to the NCAA finals.
Wisconsin isn't playing with its trademark efficiency. They aren't getting much production off the bench either, relying on three freshmen as their top reserves.
Wisconsin did outrebound Marquette 36-33 despite having a decided height disadvantage.
"As long as we're hitting the glass ... we're giving ourselves a chance," Ryan said.
Marquette: The athletic Golden Eagles set the tone early in transition and used an 18-3 run spanning about eight minutes between the first and second halves to build a 13-point lead with 15:51 left. ... Marquette ended a two-game slide in a series that dates to 1917.
Wisconsin: Ethan Happ finished with 12 points, while Zak Showalter had 10 points and 10 rebounds. ... The Badgers never led after going up 23-22 with 3:34 left in the first half.
STAR WATCH: Hayes, one of two returning starters from that squad, finished 4 of 18 from the field with 10 points. He hit a 3 and a jumper in the final six minutes to help Wisconsin rally from a 46-32 deficit with 11:33 left.
Wisconsin's other top scorer, point guard Bronson Koenig was 3 of 11 for eight points.
"They made everything really tough for me," Koenig said. "I'm sure that was the game plan, to get the ball out of my hands."
BIG GUYS: Marquette had a 36-16 edge on points in the paint, though Ryan liked the way his team defended Fischer and Ellenson, especially during the Badgers' second half rally.
They came up with big plays at the end.
Ellenson put a spin move on Happ in the lane before finishing with a short jumper with 1:10 left. Hayes followed with a jumper to tie the game at 55 before Fischer's tip gave Marquette the win.
"We got them with size down low ... and that's been an emphasis the past couple weeks now, is to play inside out," Fischer said.
Marquette hosts Chicago State on Dec. 21.
Wisconsin hosts Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Tuesday.