In a matchup of two struggling Big Ten teams, Wisconsin came out on top over Illinois, 78-69. Ethan Happ and Trent Frazier went back-and-forth, with Happ finishing with 27 points and Frazier finishing with a career-high 32 points. The win snapped the Badgers five-game losing streak and improves their record to 11-15, 4-9 in the Big Ten.
The star of the first half was Happ. The junior center made his first seven shots as he dominated the paint. Happ impressively finished one-handed off of an inbound alley-oop pass with one second left on the shot clock, catching it and floating it to the rim all in one motion. By the time he missed his first shot, there was 5:35 left in the first half, but even on that miss the Badgers grabbed the offensive board leading to an Aleem Ford three-pointer. Happ also recorded four assists in the first half as Illinois tried to collapse on him with every post touch.
Wisconsin went on an 11-4 run to take the lead 29-25. The Badgers held Illinois scoreless from the field from the 7:36 mark until there was just less than one minute remaining in the half. The Badgers took their biggest lead of the game of six right before halftime, but Trent Frazier hit a three to cut it back down to three at the intermission, 36-33.
Happ started to cool down after making his first seven field goals, missing six of his next seven shots. The Badgers kept Illinois at bay defensively, highlighted by their six blocks, three from Happ.
Illinois tied the game up with 13:30 remaining after Frazier hit a nasty stepback three on Happ, making the score 44-44. That three-pointer gave Frazier 16 points, and Happ had 22 of Wisconsin’s 44 points. Brevin Pritzl got the lead right back for Wisconsin hitting a three on the left wing.
Frazier continued to give Wisconsin fits, however. The freshman guard hit a floater and then followed that with another three, keeping the Illini at pace with Wisconsin. Frazier had 11 points in the opening 8:12 of the second half.
After watching Frazier on the other end, the Badgers freshman guard, Brad Davison, beat him backdoor as Happ hit him with a timely pass that led to an and-one finish, giving Wisconsin a three-point line…only leading to a ridiculous three-point answer from Frazier, who simply couldn’t miss.
Happ, with the Badgers up by two, had to go to the bench after he got called for his third foul on a questionable call. In his absence, other Badgers stepped up. Reuvers hit his third field goal of the game on a post move. Then Pritzl got his hand on the ball leading to an Illinois turnover, and Khalil Iverson capitalized with a strong take to the rim, extending the Badgers lead to six.
Happ returned to the game, and with him back in the game, all the Illini attention went to Happ. As he pounded the ball in the paint looking to make a move, Illinois crashed hard leaving Davison wide open in the corner. Happ found the freshman and he promptly knocked down a three giving the Badgers a nine-point lead. The next possession down, the same exact thing happened except it was Pritzl on the receiving end of a perfect Happ pass.
Illinois would make things interesting at the end of the game. The Illini went on an 11-5 run behind a three-point play and a three-pointer from Frazier, cutting a ten point deficit to four points with 2:21 remaining.
Down the stretch, the Badgers would finally stop Frazier. In an isolation situation against Frazier, he tried a step back three that was off. The next possession down, Iverson would force a turnover from Frazier. Pritzl would ice the game from the free throw line.
The win gave Wisconsin its 13th straight victory over Illinois. Pritzl rebounded after a couple of rough outings, scoring 15 points and was 3/3 from beyond the arch. Davison chipped in 14.
Up next, the Badgers play Michigan in the Kohl Center on Sunday at Noon.