Coming off an impressive victory against #5 Michigan State on February 6th, the Illinois Fighting Illini men’s basketball team was facing a tall order when traveling to #15 Wisconsin 4 days later.
In his 9 seasons as Badger head coach, Bo Ryan was 133-10 at the Kohl Center and an amazing 100-1 against unranked opponents at home.
He also had never lost a home game against an unranked Big Ten team, with the Badgers having won 58 straight against unranked conference opponents.
Given these incredible numbers and Illinois’ recent struggles against the Badgers (having lost 6 of the last 7 meetings), it seemed next to impossible that the Illini would win this game.
Leave it to Bruce Weber’s most unpredictable team at the University of Illinois to defy the odds and pull a shocker, even after sleepwalking through the first 12 minutes of the game.
Where I Was for This Game: Watched the first half from home before going to practice for my eighth grade basketball team. I followed the second half action via text messages from my cousin, and was certainly pleased with what I was reading.
What I Remember from This Game:
● Boldly and foolishly predicting after the Michigan State win that there was no way that Illinois was going to follow up and beat Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Well, I was certainly wrong on that one.
● Illinois getting off to a sleepy start in the first 12 minutes but somehow hanging around long enough for Demetri McCamey to go off late in the first half.
● Driving to basketball practice and having the opening minutes of the second half on the radio. I was going crazy at one point when McCamey and Bill Cole hit some big shots for the Illini.
● Feeling downright giddy after this night of Big Ten play. Illinois entered play with a three-game tie for second place in the conference and left the night in a first-place tie with Michigan State, which would lose to Purdue later in the night.
What Surprised Me/Stood Out Upon A Second Viewing:
● Forgot that Wisconsin was without Jon Leuer. It hadn’t mattered in the two games prior to the Illini, as the Badgers had won both by 18 points.
● Maybe it purposely slipped my mind that Mike Tisdale was the only Illini to have a field goal until the six minute mark of the first half. Tisdale, McCamey and Tyler Griffey were the only Illini with field goals in the first half. Tisdale was especially clutch in the first 20 minutes, going 6-for-7 from the field and keeping the Illini within striking distance.
● Also forgot that Illinois Head Coach Bruce Weber reinserted Mike Davis into the starting lineup against Wisconsin, following a great game versus Michigan State.
● Was really impressed with Weber’s coaching job in this game, and McCamey’s continued maturity (see below).
Let’s do this thing.
Illinois Fighting Illini (16-8, 8-3) vs. #13 Wisconsin Badgers (18-5, 8-3)
With Davis back in the starting lineup, Illinois begins with G Demetri McCamey, G D.J. Richardson, F Bill Cole, F Davis and C Mike Tisdale.
As for Wisconsin, Bo Ryan starts the game with G Trevon Hughes (Senior), G Jordan Taylor (Sophomore), G Jason Bohannon (Senior), F Tim Jarmusz (Junior) and F Keaton Nankivil (Junior).
Announcers: Dave Revsine and Jim Jackson.
Following the opening tip, Jackson says that it’s important that Illinois establish itself early and get into a rhythm.
● Demetri McCamey: Misses a curl jumper at 19:14. Good look didn’t go down. In previous games, Illinois has ran McCamey off the ball on its first possession of the game to see if it can get the junior guard an early basket. Can’t corral a Richardson pass under the basket at 16:26. Unforced turnovers are killer at the Kohl Center. Throws up a wild runner at 15:56 as Nankivil cut off his path to the basket.
Illinois trails 11-2 at the 14:55 mark after Taylor hits a three despite McCamey’s closeout attempt. The Badgers are lulling the Illini to sleep, with Hughes isolated on Tisdale there and then kicking out to the top of the key. Fouled at the rim at 12:13, following a backdoor cut. Hits one of two free throws to cut the game to 14-7 in favor of Wisconsin. Tough luck at 11:33 as Bohannon hits a tough pop-back jumper in his face to give the Badgers a 16-7 lead.
Misses a long two at 10:30. Poor possession there, with Illinois not getting the ball past the free-throw line and McCamey settling for a difficult shot. Overpenetrates and turns the ball over in the lane with a sloppy pass at 9:36. McCamey has been too herky jerky in the first 10 minutes. An absolute terrible turnover at 8:52, forcing the ball up the court, overpenetrating again, and then getting caught in the air before losing the ball out of bounds. McCamey with a very rough floor game thus far (that won’t be the case for too much longer). Awful defense at 7:52, lethargically getting over a screen and then fouling Hughes on a three, which is made, putting the Badgers up 21-11 and leading to the under-8 timeout. Hughes hits the free throw out of the under-8 to make it 22-11 Wisconsin.
Beautiful killer crossover and drive at 6:01 results in a layup and a 24-15 ILL deficit. That’s Illinois’ first bucket from someone other than Tisdale. Scores another layup on the next Illini possession, off a strong dribble move and finish on the left-side of the hoop, cutting the Illini deficit to 25-17 with 5:42 to go. Suddenly has a bounce in his step, as he hits Tisdale off the pick and roll game for a dunk plus the foul at 4:48. Hits a quick jumper off the screen game at 4:22, cutting the Illinois deficit to five at 27-22. Is suddenly assertive and now has a quick 9 points.
Buries a three from the top of the key at 2:51, tying the game at 27 as Illinois is on a 16-5 run. Good defensive activity at 2:19, nearly stealing a pass for Nankivil, who retrieves the ball and rattles home a long two to put the Badgers up 29-27. Buries another deep three (this time off a high screen from Tisdale) at 1:47, putting Illinois up 30-29. That’s Illinois’ first lead of the game after McCamey’s 11th, 12th and 13th points. Good closeout on Nankivil at 1:12, after Illinois played a great defensive possession, but the Wisconsin big man hits a tough three from the top of the key to make it 32-30 Badgers. Illinois will live with that shot; great defensive activity on that possession. Is unconscious as he nails a deep bomb over Nankivil with 33.9 seconds left, putting the Illini back in front at 33-32. Great defense, better offense is how Jackson describes it. McCamey with 16 points and 4 assists in the first half.
Misses a pull-up three at 17:46. A heat check if there ever was one, but McCamey’s been feeling it. You will live with that shot (in this instance) as it was Illinois’ first miss in its last 11 shots. Now the key is that Illinois doesn’t continue to take such shots but rather works it offense. During the next Illinois possession, the offense is stagnant, with McCamey dribbling the ball off Taylor’s foot during a crossover attempt at 16:50. The ball rolls down court and Taylor outhustles the Illini on the play, picking it up and burying a corner three to put the Illini down five at 42-37. Got outhustled there. A couple possessions later: great push and find of Richardson on the secondary break leads to a three and a 42-42 time. After Bohannon buries a quick three, McCamey responds with a long jumper at 14:08 to cut the Wisconsin lead to 45-44. This really is some fun, back-and-forth basketball. Tremendous push after a Richardson block and find of Cole on the break, who hits a ridiculous reverse shot at 13:30 to put the Illini up 46-45 and take us to the under-16. McCamey is playing like a surgeon, carving up the Badgers right now.
After another Bohannon three, follows up with a nice floater in the lane off a curl screen, giving the Illini a 49-48 lead with 12:50 to go. Great decision at 12:17, passing on a heat check three in transition and pulling the ball out with no Illini under the boards. Gets his shot blocked out of bounds by Nankivil at 11:47, leading to the under-12 timeout.
Hits a crafty banker off the glass at 10:25 to put the Illini up 51-48. Jackson is chuckling there as McCamey came off a screen from Tisdale, lulled the defender a bit and then threw up the nonchalant shot. A deft conversion from McCamey.
At 6:35, ends a three-minute scoring drought for both teams when he hits a difficult shot just outside of the lane over Taylor, putting Illinois up 53-50. Called for a difficult offensive foul at 5:51. Not sure that Hughes beat McCamey to the spot there. Is then called for a hold at 5:36. Illinois with 5 team fouls, Wisconsin with 2 in the second half. Huge pull up in the lane at 3:18 puts Illinois up 57-53. Gets caught in the air with the shot clock down to 1 and travels at 2:06, leading to the under-4 timeout. A poor pass from Cole on that play affected McCamey’s ability to turn the corner off an off-the-ball screen.
After Wisconsin commits several fouls to get closer in the bonus, McCamey catches a break at 1:32 when his inbounds pass to Tisdale is nearly knocked off the Illini center out of bounds. Fouled with 58.3 seconds left, hitting the front end but missing the back end of the one-and-one. Illinois leads 58-53. Good job of not fouling Hughes with 46.9 seconds to go; after getting in the air, McCamey avoided contact with the Badger guard, who had to pass off to Taylor, who missed an open three.
Overall: Spectacular game, with 27 points (on 11-for-17 from the field, including 3-for-4 from three, and 2-for-4 from the line), 7 assists, 2 rebounds and 5 turnovers in 39 minutes. Was not good for the first 12 minutes or so, but then the light switch went off, with McCamey going crazy in the final 6 minutes of the first half. Beautifully orchestrated the pick and roll game with Tisdale all night long, leaving the Badgers unsure of how to guard it. His 5 turnovers were high, but 3 of those turnovers occurred early in the game. Simply said, this is about as good as McCamey could be at one of the toughest places to win in the country. As Jackson said, he played like he was one of the best guards in not only the Big Ten but the country.
● D.J. Richardson: Briefly loses Hughes after getting back screened and is a second slow to recover as the Badger senior buries a three for a 5-0 Wisconsin lead with 18 minutes to go. Very patient possession there for the Badgers. Turns the ball over on the next Illini possession, losing it off the bounce while coming off a curl screen in the lane. The Badgers get on the break, and the Illini are a bit slow to recover, with Bohannon finding Jarmusz for a three and an 8-0 Wisconsin lead with 17:35 left.
Throws up a quick three in transition that clanks the back of the rim at the 14 minute mark. Wisconsin will live with that type of shot from the Illini all game. Allows deep penetration to Taylor at 13:46 and then commits a foul on the floor.
Catches a break with less than 10 minutes to play when he allows too much penetration by Hughes, who kicks to Nankivil for an open jumper that is missed. Slow to get over a screen and close out on Bohannon at 9:20, but the Badger misses the three. Overpenetrates at 9:06, getting caught under the basket and having his pass attempt to Tisdale stolen. That play is not going to work against Wisconsin’s team defense. You can’t play out of control and expect to make plays. The Badgers make the Illini play in the transition as Jarmusz is fouled under the basket by Keller. Jarmusz makes both free throws to put Wisconsin up 18-9.
Back in at 5:51 for the foul-saddled Paul. Called for a pushing foul against Nankivil on a Badger rebound attempt at 3:52, leading to the under-4 timeout. Nankivil misses the one-and-one out of the break, and Richardson gets on the floor for the loose ball, which he kicks to McCamey. Nice active hands at 3 minutes, stealing the ball from Bohannon, who was a bit out of control.
Hits a nice runner off the bounce at 19 minutes to go to cut the ILL deficit to 37-35. That’s Richardson’s first two points of the game for the Illini, which need better scoring balance in the second half. Nice help defense for McCamey at 18:46, coming over and swiping the ball from Jordan Taylor. Picks up his third foul at 16:10, playing a bit too aggressive on Hughes, who was dribbling the ball into the ground. Nice closeout of a missed Taylor three and then a spectacular job of running the secondary break, filling the lane and stepping in and draining a three from the top of the key at 14:50, thus tying the game at 42. After a quiet first half, Richardson has woken up. Good push by McCamey there. Nice defensive footwork at 13:39, staying with Hughes and then blocking his shot at the rim. This defense propels an Illini break in which McCamey will find Cole for an and-one.
Back in out of the under-12 for Paul. Good defense on Taylor at 9:55, but the Badger guard hits a ridiculous pop back to cut the Illini lead to 51-50. Unfortunately, that basket came off a Badger rebound of a missed three by the scorching hot Bohannon, who showed that he was human. Illinois falls asleep during its next offensive possession, which sluggishly moves around until Richardson has to heave (and miss) a long three from well beyond the three-point line. Good defense in the lane at 8:40, forcing an overdrive by Hughes, who throws the ball away.
Misses a curl three at 7:05 but Wisconsin can’t secure the rebound. Good look and square up for D.J. Hits a big pull-up, mid-range jumper off the bounce at 3:57 to put the Illini up 55-53. A huge shot by the freshman in a very hostile environment.
Nice box out at 1:00 allows Cole to secure a long rebound following a missed Nankivil three. Hits two huge free throws with 42.8 seconds left to put Illinois up 60-53.
Overall: A tale of two halves for the freshman. Quiet and a bit rushed in the first half; much more assertive yet under control in the second half. Finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 29 minutes. Clutch late in the game, with a huge jumper that broke a 53-53 tie with just under 4 minutes to go.
● Bill Cole: Doesn’t do anything notable in first four minutes. Is replaced at under-16 and back at 12:43 for Paul.
Back in at 8:59 for Richardson. In out of the under-8. Nice offensive rebound of a badly missed Paul three at 6:14, which extends the possession and eventually results in an Illini score.
After a long offensive rebound is secured by Wisconsin at the start of the second half, Cole briefly slips while guarding Bohannon off the ball. Bohannon comes off a screen and dribbles to the hoop for an easy layup and a 37-33 Badger lead with 19:32 remaining. Catches a break at 19:13, as it looked like he double dribbled but Bohannon was called for the foul. Good defense on Bohannon at 17:28, but the Wisconsin guard hits a difficult jumper to put the Badgers up 39-37. Misses a flat-footed three at 16:16 off a good find from McCamey. Well, Bohannon is feeling it, jab stepping Cole and burying a deep three at 14:25 to put the Badgers up 45-42. That’s 7 points for Bohannon in the second half. Cole actually isn’t playing bad defense, Bohannon has just been better on offense. Great job of running the floor at 13:30 as McCamey rewards him with a great pass. Cole hits a crazy reverse layup and is fouled, putting Illinois up 46-45 at the much-delayed under-16 timeout. Hits the free throw throw out of the under-16 to put Illinois up 47-45.
Nice offensive rebound of a long Tisdale miss at 8:14 extends an Illinois possession that will end when Cole misses a three.
Illinois catches a break at 7:24 when Cole secures a defensive rebound following two missed Badger threes. Illinois gave up another offensive rebound on that possession. Tough break at 5:15 as Cole gets on the floor for a loose ball created by Richardson’s help defense on Taylor, who is able to get the ball and kick to Bohannon for a three and a 53-53 game. A broken down play there results in Wisconsin’s first basket since the 9:56 mark.
Bad pass to a moving McCamey off the ball at 2:06 results in a travel.
Fouled at 1:21 and misses the front end of a one and one. He actually committed a violation on the free throw, stepping over the line before the shot hit the rim. At 15.6 seconds, has his inbounds pass knocked off an Illini player. Makes up for that sloppy pass with a defensive rebound of a missed Hughes’ three at 9.3 seconds. Splits the free throws to put Illinois up 63-56, which will be the game’s final score.
Overall: Very active game in 30 productive minutes. 4 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 turnover, and tough defense on Bohannon, who was on fire in the second half. His reverse layup leading to the under-16 timeout in the second half was a huge momentum play for the Illini and helped create a feeling that Illinois could win this game.
● Mike Davis: Does not get a body on Nankivil on first possession of the game, after Hughes got into the lane but forced a tough shot against a recovering Richardson, leading to an offensive put back and a 2-0 Wisconsin lead. Strong rebound of a Taylor miss at 18:46. Bricks a flat-footed wing jumper at 18:29. A bit out of his range there. Terrible position defense at 16:43, closing out on Jarmusz straight up and reaching as the Wisconsin junior went baseline and was fouled. Replaced at the under-16 with Griffey. Apparently, getting the start didn’t do much for Davis.
Back in at 13:43 for Tisdale. Nice activity on the offensive boards at 12:13, tapping out a McCamey missed free throw to Griffey. Follows up 8 seconds later by barely grazing rim on a wide-open shot from the wing. That shot was ugly and way too slow developing.
Back in at 5:51 for Keller.
Starts second half. Very inactive and quiet game thus far. Jackson says that Davis needs to get involved, especially offensively.
Back in at the under-8. Nice help and recover defense and a big defensive board of a Jarmusz missed three at 6 minutes, with Illinois clinging to a 53-50 lead. Good activity on the offensive glass at 4:43, nearly tipping out a missed Tisdale three; unfortunately, Wisconsin came up with the ball. Great hustle on an active closeout at 4:20 on the open Hughes, who barely grazes iron on the shot that could have put the Badgers up two. Nice job of clearing the defensive glass at 3:28 after Nankivil missed a long jumper with Tisdale closing out fast. Great screen at half court seconds later frees up room for McCamey to get into the lane and hit a pull-up jumper for a 4-point lead.
Great hedge of Taylor at 1:59 but is slow to move his feet and contain the dribble. Luckily, Taylor misses a point-blank layup. Rebounds a missed Nankivil three with 30+ seconds to go, but is not strong with the rock. Instead of holding the ball as Wisconsin collapsed on him, Davis threw a pass that was stolen. Wisconsin missed another open three off the turnover, and the ball was tied up on the possession. The arrow goes to Illinois, as the Illini dodge a bullet.
Overall: 0 points (on 0-for-2 shooting), 8 rebounds and 1 turnover in 25 minutes. After a great game against Michigan State, was hardly a factor until late in the Wisconsin game, when he made a lot of little plays that didn’t show up in the box score. With that said, you just don’t know what you’re going to get from Davis, who can look like a world beater some games and be missing on a milk carton in others.
● Mike Tisdale: Hits a pull up jumper off the pick and pop game with McCamey at 16:57, cutting the Badger lead to 8-2. The shot clock was down to 1 there, but Tisdale was patient with that shot. Illinois will start going to this pick and pop game between McCamey and Tisdale very often during the rest of the season. Can’t handle a McCamey pass with under 16 minutes to go. The ball bounces out of bounds off Tisdale, leading to the under-16. Apparently, the call was reversed out of the under-16, with the ball off Wisconsin.
Hits a nice half hook at 14:40 to cut the ILL deficit to 11-4. Good post position and find from Paul. Good help defense and use of his length at 14:03, forcing a wild shot in the lane by the dribble penetrator Hughes.
Back in out of the under-12. Misses an open jumper from the elbow at 11:21. Catches a break at 11 minutes as he was slow to recover on Nankivil after hedging a screen, but Nankivil has a three-point shot spin in and out. Breaks a 4-minute Illinois scoring drought at 10:06, with a soft lefty shot in the lane that cuts the ILL deficit to 16-9. That was a highly-skilled play from Tisdale, who set a screen for McCamey, rolled, caught the ball and put it on the deck for one bounce before hitting the soft lay-in. Hits an open jumper from the left win at 8:16 to cut the Badger lead to 18-11.
Called for an offensive, off-the-ball foul at 7:33, after setting an illegal screen for Paul. Hits another jumper off the pick and pop game with McCamey, this time from just the left of the top of the key at 7:03, cutting the ILL deficit to 22-13. Gets switched on Hughes at 6:35, and the diminutive Badger guard makes him pay, hitting a tough pop-back jumper for a 24-13 game. Great job at 4:48 of rolling off a screen, diving to the hoop and finishing with an authoritative two-handed jam after McCamey found him with a nice pass. Tisdale is fouled on the play and hits the free throw to cut the ILL deficit to 25-20. That’s how Tisdale needs to finish at the rim. A bit slow to close out on Nankivil at 4:32, as the Badger big man hits a wing jumper to end a 7-1 Illinois run and extend the Illini deficit to 27-20.
Back in at 2:51, for Davis. Great first half, with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
Good closeout on a Nankivil missed three at the start of the second half, but the long rebound caroms out to Wisconsin. Continues his hot shooting when he buries another long jumper off the pick and pop game with McCamey, tying the game at 37 with 18:27 to go. Hits another open jumper at 15:20, to cut the Illini deficit to 42-39. Illinois needed that basket as was Wisconsin was on a bit of a run and the Illini were certainly a bit out of sorts. That shot came off a broken-down play, but the Illini will take it.
Misses an open three at 4:45 with the game tied at 53. Maybe a step beyond his range, and certainly not the shot Illinois wanted after Wisconsin just tied the game, especially with the Kohl Center starting to get loud. Great help defense at 2:50, keeping his hands straight up as Taylor beat McCamey but missed the shot. The crowd wanted the foul, but Tisdale didn’t touch Taylor there. Nice toughness from Tisdale. Bo is not happy.
Almost travels on an inbounds catch at 26 seconds but is fouled by Hughes on the play. Tisdale hits both free throws to put Illinois up 62-53.
Overall: Fantastic game, scoring 19 points mostly in the pick and pop game with McCamey. Was 8-for-11 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line, including 2 clutch free throws late. Added 3 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal in 37 big minutes. Had 1 turnover in the game. Simply said, this game was a perfect reflection of just how fundamentally-skilled Tisdale is for a 7’1’’ big man. While there’s no way Illinois wins this game without McCamey, I’m not sure the Illini would have been in this game without Tisdale, who was the only Illini with a field goal until the 6-minute mark of the first half.
● Brandon Paul: In out of the under-16 for Cole. Immediately comes out and misses a quick fade-away jumper off an inbound play. Wild shot, equivalent to swinging for the fences. Too aggressive with his defense at 13:33, bodying and fouling Bohannon on the perimeter. Good weak-side help defense at 13:13, stepping over after Hughes posted McCamey and stealing a pass under the basket. Allows way-too-easy post-up position to Rob Wilson at 12:34 and then plays matador defense as Wilson spun into the lane, scored a layup and was fouled by the helping Griffey. Wilson completes the old-fashioned three-point play at the line, and Illinois now trails 14-6.
Back in at 8:59 for Jordan.
In out of the under-8. Misses a deep, forced three from the top of the key at 6:14. That play came off a ball screen, with Paul taking one dribble and firing. Poor shot selection. Poor job of sliding his feet at 5:51 allows penetration by Wilson. Paul commits the foul on the drive, and now has three fouls in the game. Wilson splits the free throws to extend the Badger lead to 25-15.
In for Cole after the made free throw out of the under-16. Good effort on his closeout on Bohannon at 13:06 (it may have been a half-second late), but the scorching Bohannon hits a three to put Wisconsin back in front, at 48-47. Wisconsin was 11-0 on the season when Bohannon scored 11 or more, but this stat wouldn’t hold on this night. After looking at the replay out of the under-12, Jackson comments that Paul overcommitted on the help on that play, giving Bohannon too much space for that shot.
Overall: Rough night for the freshman, who had 0 points (0-for-3 from the field), 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 fouls in 8 minutes. He may be able to get away with similar up-and-down play against other Big Ten teams, but it’s not as easy against Wisconsin, especially at the Kohl Center.
● Tyler Griffey: In out of the under-16 for Davis. Gets an offensive rebound of a Jordan miss at 12:55 and is fouled on the shooting attempt, sending Bo Ryan into frenzy despite the fact that the Wisconsin defender came across Griffey’s elbow. Anyways, Griffey hits both free throws to cut the ILL deficit to 11-6.
In for Tisdale out of the under-4 and pays immediate dividends, hitting a jumper off the screen and roll game to cut the ILL deficit to 27-24 with 3:36 to go in the half. Another assist from McCamey, who is starting to control this game.
In for Davis out of the under-16.
Overall: 4 points, 5 rebounds in 13 minutes. Love this kid’s team-first attitude and willingness to take and make open shots when present within the offense. Make that two strong games in the toughest places to play in the Big Ten (Michigan State’s Breslin Center and Wisconsin’s Kohl Center) for the freshman Griffey, who has the chance to be a solid contributor for years to come.
● Dominique Keller: In for Davis out of the under-12.
Back in out of the under-8. Two defensive rebounds thus far.
Overall: 2 rebounds in 6 minutes. Starting to fall behind Griffey in the rotation. Didn’t play in the second half. Hasn’t been the energizer/X-factor that Weber hoped for. Better energy on the court would probably translate in more time, as there are minutes to be had from Davis.
● Jeff Jordan: In at 13:45 for Richardson. Misses a good look at the free-throw-line extended with 13 minutes to go. Can’t handle a McCamey pass at 11:25, leading to a tie up, with the possession arrow going to Wisconsin out of the under-12.
Nice job of moving his feet and picking up an offensive foul on Taylor with a little more than 10 minutes left in the first half.
Back in at 2:51, for Richardson. Allows dribble penetration to Bohannon on the final possession of the first half, leading to an open Hughes’ three that is nailed at the horn, giving the Badgers a 35-33 lead.
In for Richardson out of the under-16. Nice block of a Taylor driving shot at 12:21, with Griffey securing the loose ball. Good post defense and block a Hughes shot in the lane at 10:47. Jordan doing a nice job of being a defensive pest as of late. Fouls Bohannon on the floor at 7:51, leading to the under-8.
Overall: 0 points and 1 block in 13 minutes. I had him for two blocks in the game. Actually, had a very solid game defensively.
● Bruce Weber: Has a befuddled look on his face at the under-16 timeout as Illinois has gotten off to a very bad start, trailing 8-2. The offense is not crisp, with 2 turnovers already. Defensively, the Illini are giving up way too much dribble penetration, resulting in 4 open Badger 3-point attempts and 2 makes from beyond the arc. Illinois needs much better concentration, effort and energy if it’s going to pull an upset at Wisconsin. A disappointing mental start for the Illini.
Illinois trails 16-7 at the under-12 as the Illini have yet to show much of a pulse. Wisconsin’s swing offense is patiently putting everyone to sleep and making not the greatest Illini defensive team work for a good 30 seconds. Luckily for Illinois, the Badgers have a few uncharacteristic turnovers and have missed some open shots, or this deficit could be much bigger. Illinois is allowing too much defensive penetration. There’s not much to say about Illinois’ offense right now – it just isn’t good, with little movement or urgency. The Illini are just 2-for-9 for the field as this is clearly a Wisconsin-style of game. Tisdale is 2-for-2; everyone else is 0-for-7.
Illinois trails 21-11 at the under-8; it should be much more but the Badgers have missed some open looks. With the exception of Mike Tisdale (who has all 4 field goals), the Illini have yet to arrive in Madison. Illinois is playing with its collective head cut off thus far in the half-court set, with McCamey and Richardson turning the ball over on 3 straight possessions. The only good Illini offense has come off the pick and pop game between McCamey and Tisdale. The Illini have been lulled to sleep, as Wisconsin is patient on its end and relentless while guarding Illinois. Now would be a nice time for Illinois to start playing with some semblance of energy and urgency.
Well, it took 14 minutes, but the Illini suddenly have some energy and urgency, as the deficit has been cut to 27-22. McCamey has been rolling offensively, getting Illinois’ first field goal from someone other than Tisdale at the 6-minute mark and then scoring 2 more baskets in this span. He also assisted on a beautiful three-point play from Tisdale, who has kept the Illini in this game. Don’t know how this has happened, but the Illini are somehow alive. The Kohl Center has been a bit quiet tonight and the Badgers have missed some good looks. Jim Jackson was calling out the Illini, saying that they lack the energy of the Michigan State game, and suddenly the Illini have woken up. It’s about time. Usually, a Bo Ryan team will have you buried after 14 minutes of uninspired play. Illinois is shooting 45%; Wisconsin 41%.
Wisconsin calls a timeout at 2:51 after McCamey hits a three to tie the game at 27. Illinois is on a 16-5 run, with McCamey now controlling the game off the screen and roll in the last 3 minutes after a nondescript start. McCamey and Tisdale have combined for 23 of Illinois’ 27 points. Jackson makes a great observation: Illinois’ body language and energy is suddenly a lot different than it was for the first 10+ minutes of the first half.
Weber takes a nice 30 second timeout after Nankivil hits a difficult three to put Wisconsin up 32-30 with 1:01 to go. Nankivil has 7 straight points and is engaging in a bit of a mano-a-mano battle with McCamey. I like this timeout from Weber, who has Wisconsin off balance defensively. Jackson says that Wisconsin needs to decide how to guard the screen and roll. On the next Illini possession, the Badgers switch on the screen, but it doesn’t matter as McCamey buries a ridiculous three over Nankivil to put Illinois ahead 33-32.
Illinois trails 35-33 at the break, after Hughes hits a three at the buzzer. Both teams are suddenly on fire; Illinois hit its last 8 shots of the half after only having 11 points in the first 12 minutes. What was a boring and frustrating half for 14 minutes finished with much excitement and action. Even though Wisconsin hits that shot, Illinois has to feel good about where it’s at, especially when considering how bad it started and how hot it finished. That was some fun basketball to watch in the last 6 minutes, especially from the Illini side of things.
Here are the key halftime stats: Illinois shot 54% and Wisconsin 48%. Illinois was 3/5 from three; Wisconsin 6/11. The Illini were 4/5 at the line; Wisconsin 5/7. Illinois had an 8 to 4 advantage in point paints, and a 14 to 12 lead in rebounds. The turnovers were nearly even as Illinois had 5 and Wisconsin 4.
Illinois leads 46-45 at the under-16 (with 13:30 left). This has been an absolutely spectacular start to the second half, with both teams throwing jabs but not falling down. After Cole hits a ridiculous reverse layup to send the game to the under-16, both teams had combined to make 9 of its last 10 shots. Illinois was down 42-37 at one point after several bad possessions, but the Illini did not blink when it could have been danger time. Sans a few possessions, McCamey is playing brilliant basketball, scoring and dishing. The same goes for Tisdale, who is hitting bit shot after big shot, and Richardson, who is having a makeup second half after a nonexistent first 20 minutes. Wisconsin came out of the half with great urgency, and Bohannon has been carrying them. One thing that is bothersome: the Badgers have gotten several offensive rebounds. With that said, Richardson’s defensive activity has been great.
Illinois leads 49-48 at the under-12, which was an abbreviated period of play given how long the game ran to get to the under-16. Well, McCamey and Bohannon are playing a game of “anything you can do, I can do better” at this point of a very exciting game featuring 7 lead changes and 3 ties thus far.
With Illinois leading 51-50 with 8:39 to go, Weber takes a smart timeout. Illinois nearly had a shot clock violation in its last possession, and this game has slowed down a bit in terms of its scoring pace. A good time to get his team on the same page and buckle down for what figures to be a competitive final 8+ minutes. Illinois comes out of this timeout with Jordan in for McCamey, who could use a little rest before the under-8 timeout. Illinois does not score on the possession, but runs off a lot of time, thanks to a Cole offensive board. Illinois will go into the under-8 leading 51-50 after Jordan fouls Bohannon on the floor.
Illinois has its biggest lead of the game, a 4-point margin of 57-53, at 2:35. A good timeout by Weber after Tisdale came up with a big defensive stop. Illinois needs to execute here. The game was tied at 53, but the Illini have been on a mini 4-0 run, thanks to gutsy shots by Richardson and McCamey. Mike Davis has come up with a bevy of little plays in the last couple of minutes. This is classic Bruce Weber, drawing out this game with long possessions. I’ve been very impressed with Illinois’ poise in the last couple of minutes. Wisconsin has only 1 field goal since the 9:56 mark. Unfortunately, Illinois is unable to get a good shot out of the break, with McCamey getting caught in the air and traveling as the shot clock was at one. That play takes us to the under-4 timeout, with Illinois leading 57-53 with 2:06 remaining.
Wisconsin takes a timeout with 46.9 seconds to go, with the Illini leading 58-53. Time for the Illini to inbound the ball and salt this game away at the free throw line. Illinois gets the ball in to Richardson, who hits both free throws. Tisdale later hits two free throws, and the Badgers miss several threes until Rob Wilson hits one with 15.7 seconds left to cut the Illini lead to 62-56. Out of a Wisconsin timeout, Cole nearly turns the ball over on the inbound. Actually, he does (according to the refs); the ball grazes off Richardson but Hughes hit it last. It doesn’t matter as Cole rebounds a missed Hughes’ three and hits one of two free throws for the game’s final score. Illinois wins 63-56.
Overall: This may have been Weber’s best coaching effort of the year. Regardless of what you think of Bo Ryan, the man can coach, and Illinois had Wisconsin looking out-of-sorts all night long with the pick-and-pop game between McCamey and Tisdale. Credit Weber for going to this quite often, as it was effective and changed the game. I really loved how Weber coached the last 10 minutes of this game; Illinois led by no more than 4 points at this point, but Weber did a great job of getting his team to run patient offense and use the clock without it being a stall game. Great use of the timeouts all night as well, never allowing Wisconsin to get on a big run in the second half. While the start of the game was disappointing and perplexing certainly to Weber, give him credit for getting this unpredictable team to find a way and start playing at the 6-minute mark. This was not Weber’s greatest defensive team, and Wisconsin missed a lot of open shots, but Illinois’ defensive activity and effort were spectacular in the last 20 minutes. For all the Weber critics out there, pop this game in and realize how good of a coach Weber truly is.
Overall: What a strange game, not only that Illinois won 63-56 but how they won. Illinois was extremely flat in the first 12 minutes of the first half. Usually, a Bo Ryan team will put you away at the Kohl Center, but the Illini somehow stayed in the game (thanks to Tisdale) before McCamey got going late in the first half. From the 6-minute mark to the under-16 of the second half, this game was not the typical Illinois-Wisconsin slugfest, with both teams scoring back and forth as if they were playing in the Pac-10 or ACC. In the last 10 minutes, this became a grinder, but Illinois never fell back, showing much resiliency and looking like a much tougher team than the Badgers. While the offense wasn’t spectacular from about the 10-minute mark to the 5-minute mark, credit Illinois’ defense (which held the Badgers to 25.8% shooting in the second half and 35.7% shooting for the game) and Weber’s overall patience. Illinois was opportunistic when it shot the ball, shooting 52.4% in the second half and 53.3% on the game, all the while lulling the Badgers to sleep (usually Wisconsin does that to you). Illinois wasn’t perfect in its late-game execution in the final 2 minutes, but did enough to hold on. Thankfully, Wisconsin could not bury an open shot late. With that said, Illinois deserved this game, which may have been its most impressive, if not improbable, performance all year in my opinion.
Player of the Game: Demetri McCamey.
Play of the Game: With 6:14 to go in the first, Cole extended an Illini possession with a long offensive rebound and then moved the ball to McCamey, who used a nasty killer crossover to hit a layup and give Illinois its first field goal from someone other than Tisdale. This play seemed to spark McCamey and the Illini, which finished like gangbusters in the first half, hitting its last 8 shots. Beginning with this Cole board and McCamey layup, the Illini were a different team all night long.
Some Things I Liked:
● Illinois’ resiliency at different points in the game (at the end of the first half, early in the second half when Wisconsin went up 5, and at the 4-minute mark when the Badgers tied the game at 53).
● Weber’s masterful coaching effort, controlling this game with the pick and pop and drawn out possessions in the second half.
● McCamey keeping the Badgers off balance all night coming off the ball screen, finding the right balance of when to shoot and when to pass.
● Tisdale keeping the Illini in the game with a calm, cool and collected shooting stroke from the outside.
● D.J. Richardson bouncing back in the second half.
● Bill Cole with some nice energy plays.
● Tyler Griffey making the most of his opportunities.
● Mike Davis with some little plays late that were bigger than what the final box score depicted.
Some Things I Didn’t Like:
● Awful start to the game, looking listless for the first 12 minutes.
● 0 points combined from Davis and Paul, both of whom played great in the previous game against Michigan State.
With that said, I’m not going to complain about much anytime the Illini win at the hated Kohl Center.
Enjoy these highlights.
Well, that’s it for another Illini Tale of the Tape.
Up next: Ohio State at Illinois.
Topics: Bill Cole, Bo Ryan, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, Jason Bohannon, Jeff Jordan, Jon Leuer, Jordan Taylor, Keaton Nankivil, Kohl Center, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Rob Wilson, Trevon Hughes, Tyler Griffey, U-of-I Basketball, University Of Illinois, Wisconsin Badgers, Wisconsin Basketball