Look away, Badgers fans, Illinois did it again.
The Fighting Illini just knocked off a Wisconsin team that was on a roll and did so by just one point. Sound familiar ?
In any case, Wisconsin was riding a 15-game winning streak against Illinois. The Illini had not beaten Wisconsin since 2011 and had not beaten them at the Kohl Center since 2010. A 15-7 run in the last 4:41 made the difference for the Illini. The late run concluded a hot second half that saw Illinois shoot 61.5% from the field and 5-7 from deep. Both of those percentages jumped dramatically from the first half and kept the Fighting Illini in the game and allowed them to ultimately come away with the win. As head coach Brad Underwood noted it was important for them to hang around because of the slow pace and defensive effort that Wisconsin has and they did just that.
For Wisconsin, their leading scorer, Kobe King, opened the second half hot with eight points in a matter of 2:27 from 19:06 to 16:39. At that point in the contest King was 8-10, but puzzlingly Wisconsin did not look for much. He would not score again until the 7:11 mark in the game. King had only taken one other shot between that time frame and his only other shot in the game came on a scramble to score while down four where he hit a three to close the gap to one and carry his total to 21. King would finish 10-13 with 21 points which naturally leads to the question of why he didn’t shoot more if he was so efficient ?
After the three from King, Wisconsin found themselves down just one. After a miss at the line from Illinois big Giorgio Bezhanishvili on the front end of a one and one, UW had a chance to win the game with 15 seconds left but a drive to the left and effort to draw a foul from Trice came up short. A frantic chase for the rebound was not to be and the clock hit triple zeros. Should the ball have gone to the hot Kobe King there ? At the end of it, Illinois breaks a 15-game losing streak against UW and becomes just the fourth Big Ten team this year to win on the road in conference play. The Fighting Illini continue to be a thorn on the side of Wisconsin athletics.
- This team has multiple guys that can lead the team any night
With the departure of Ethan Happ, one of the ways the offense changed is the lack of reliance on one player to put the ball in the basket. One of the biggest differences that has been talked about is the increased shooting and spacing that is now in the court with the promotion of Aleem Ford and Kobe King to the starting lineup, but the departure of Happ also opened up a ton of opportunity for players to score in an offense that no longer keyed in on getting the ball to one guy.
The versatility and depth of the 2019-20’ Badgers has been fully on display. Against Illinois the hot hand was Kobe King who finished with 21 points on an incredibly efficient 10-13 shooting night. Six Badgers are currently averaging eight or more points on the year while Micah Potter, who contributed 11 points tonight, continues to find his footing.
Nate Reuvers currently leads the squad with 14.9 points per game but six different players have finished the night as the leading scorer through fifteen games which is significant. Brad Davison started off the year hot, Aleem Ford has shown flashes, Nate Reuvers has become a consistent threat, Trice has poured in nights of 21 and 31 points recently and Kobe King just showed what he is capable of tonight.
2. Micah Potter is settling in
Before tonight, the Badgers were 4-0 with Micah Potter active and very nearly went 5-0.
Micah Potter had his best performance yet with 11 points and nine rebounds which is his best scoring output since a 13 point outing back in January 17th of 2018 against Northwestern while with Ohio State.
Potter had been itching to play for so long and is finally getting his chance after having to sit out three semesters and he has looked good. The big man hit his first three with Wisconsin showing off his versatility and what he can add to the offense.
Potter had his best game tonight and will continue to play a big role. Not only can he be an important piece of the offense but just as important, he can give Reuvers a rest when necessary or allow Wisconsin to go with two bigs on the floor if Gard ever elects to do so.
3. FTs no longer an issue for Wisconsin
We all remember the issues Wisconsin had at the free throw line a year ago. Last season, the Badgers shot just 65% from the line which was good for 334th in the country, and their 60% mark during conference play was dead last in the Big Ten.
Now fast forward a year and Wisconsin has improved drastically. Maybe the departure of Ethan Happ and the hack-a-Happ strategy some teams used was all the difference but it is impossible to know.
Coming into the matchup with the fighting Illini, Wisconsin was shooting an exceptional 78% from the line which was good for 15th best in the country and their 80% shooting during their three conference games is second best in the conference.
Against the Fighting Illini, the Badgers kept up the great shooting from the stripe with a 20-23 mark that included 8-8 in the second half. Free throw shooting has quickly gone from a liability to a strength for the Badgers.