Though the game looked ugly at points, Wisconsin (19-3, 8-1) was able to pull out their 15th win in their last 16 games, outlasting the Fighting Illini by a score of 57-43. It was Illinois’ lowest point total on the season, and Wisconsin’s 11th straight game holding opponents under 70 points.
Wisconsin started off the game on a 9-0 run, led by two Bronson Koenig jumpers. Illinois didn’t score until the 16:32 mark, as Malcolm Hill banged home a jumper. The Badgers jumped out to a 16-2 lead to start the game, and took their biggest lead of the first half on another Koenig jumper that put Wisconsin out in front 26-10.
Nigel Hayes picked up his second foul with considerable time left in the first half, so the Badgers experimented with some lineups, including one that featured Jordan Hill, Zak Showalter and D’Mitrik Trice, all guards. Additionally, Aaron Moesch, who typically doesn’t come in until late in blowout games, picked up three offensive rebounds in four minutes of first half play.
Koenig led all scorers with nine points on 4/9 shooting (1/4 from three) at the break.
Ethan Happ got the scoring started in the second half with a steal and fastbreak bucket. He finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds on 7/11 shooting, leading all scorers.. Illinois then jumped out to a 6-0 run that was promptly ended with a Hayes putback dunk. Hayes had a nice night himself, picking up 11 points, eight rebounds and two assists on 4/11 shooting.
Khalil Iverson played a big role off the bench as well, nailing his second three-pointer of the game midway through the second half. In his previous 21 games (the rest of the season), he had just two three-pointers. Iverson had 15 minutes off the bench, second only to D’Mitrik Trice’s 16.
Wisconsin kept a pretty consistent lead over the rest of the second half, keeping their lead above 10 from the nine-minute mark on. After a Jaylon Tate layup cut the Wisconsin lead to six, three consecutive scores from Happ and Hayes extended the margin to 51-37. The Badgers didn’t look back from there, getting their 8th Big Ten win, 57-43. Illinois dropped to 13-10 (3-7 in the Big Ten) on the season.
The Badgers limited Illinois to just 16/58 shooting on the night (27.6%), including 5/21 (23.8%) from three-point range. The Illini were led in scoring by Malcolm Hill and Maverick Morgan, who both had 10 points in 35 minutes of play. Wisconsin also outrebounded Illinois by a margin of 45-36.
Wisconsin’s win maintained a first place tie in the Big Ten with Maryland, who beat Ohio State earlier in the night. The Badgers will be home against Indiana on Sunday, and the noon game can be seen on CBS.