Illinois gave Wisconsin, coming off of its biggest win of the season, a tough road test on Wednesday night. The Badgers battled foul trouble from the tip but pulled out an ugly 72-60 victory. The final difference of twelve points made the game look less competitive than it actually was. The Badgers improved to 13-6 on the year and 5-3 in the Big Ten.
It was a busy night for the officials in Champagne on Wednesday night. The officials called 42 fouls, in addition to a few replays. No call, or replay, was more crucial than Happ’s fourth foul on a hook-and-hold with 9:38 remaining in the game. Happ had been in foul trouble all game, as was most of the team.
With Happ on the bench, the other four starters scored in double-figures, in what would seem like an alternate reality for most Wisconsin fans. Happ ended in single digits with nine points (and an impressive nine rebounds and six assists in limited minutes), but it was his supporting cast that kept Wisconsin from a disastrous loss.
The game was a coming out party for two young big men in the Big Ten. Sophomore Nate Reuvers had career-high in points and rebounds, finishing with 22 points and 10 boards. Reuvers led the game in scoring and took care of business with Happ on the bench; he even dished out a nice assist on a Brevin Pritzl three to put the Badgers up by eight and seemed to hold the Illini’s upset bid off.
On the Fighting Illini’s side battling against Reuvers was Giorgi Bezhanishvili, just a freshman, who led his team in scoring with 20 points. Bezhanishvili made a few NBA moves and at times bullied Wisconsin inside at times.
Wisconsin, a team that has had a pattern of starting out slow, hit their first seven shots to start out the game. However, Greg Gard’s squad also had seven turnovers at the same point and were unable to stretch out a lead. Wisconsin, after a win over #2 Michigan, only led one-Big Ten win Illini by two at the break. Iverson scored eight first-half points and got the Badgers some easy buckets around the rim.
Wisconsin hit 50 percent of their threes against Illinois. Brad Davison hit the dagger from deep with just under three minutes left to give Wisconsin their first lead in double digits of with 2:34 remaining.
Up next, Wisconsin plays Northwestern back in the Kohl Center on Saturday.