It wasn’t pretty, but Wisconsin’s defense, clutch free throw shooting, and a career night from Khalil Iverson gave the Badgers a 63-55 win.

The first half was a bit slow for Wisconsin out of the gate, as both Ethan Happ (11:06) and Bronson Koenig (7:53) had two fouls early on. The Badgers got 12 combined points off the bench from Khalil Iverson and Vitto Brown in the half. The team utilized a 19-6 scoring run and a Nigel Hayes buzzer beater to take a 33-28 lead into halftime. Wisconsin shot 52% in the first 20 minutes, but only went 1-9 from three and did not attempt a free throw.

Both teams struggled from the field in the second half, but Wisconsin was able to put a few more points on the board than the Illini. Both teams only shot 32% from the field, but Wisconsin’s 17/20 from the free throw line was the difference in the end.

Iverson in particular was a huge spark in this one, scoring a career-high 10 points, with 5 rebounds and two assists. The freshman had scored 6 points total in the team’s last 4 games. His defense stood out as well, as he stepped up when both Happ and Koenig got in foul trouble in the first half.

The Badgers were able to hold off Illinois on the defense end. Overall, Illinois only shot 36% from the field and scored a poor .846 points per possession. Wisconsin out-rebounded Illinois 37-25 and forced 11 turnovers.

Jordan Hill started in place of Vitto Brown (upper body injury) tonight, although Brown came off the bench. The move made sense considering Illinois’ three-guard lineup, and a source told Brown’s upper body injury is a rib injury. Brown’s 9 points contributed to a 19-point bench performance. Hayes also added 17 points to follow up his 31-point performance against Indiana.

“This wasn’t a thing of beauty, but it’s not gymnastics,” Wisconsin interim head coach Greg Gard said after the game. “There are no style points. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is hard.”

Wisconsin (13-9, 5-4) will host Ohio State (14-9, 6-4) on Thursday night at 6:00 PM.

Photo: Robin Scholz / AP Photo