The Illinois Fighting Illini went to Madison, Wisconsin and got popped in the mouth by the #4 team in the nation in a game that was all over but the shouting fairly early on in the second half. The Wisconsin Badgers were clearly the better team on a night that saw them lead by 25 at half time, and the Illini traded hoops for most of the second half before finally falling by a final score of 95-70. It was the Badgers largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent since 1999.
The Badgers had 5 players in double figures tonight, and shot 56.1% from the floor as a team. They also converted 24 of 33 free throws. Ben Brust led the way for Wisconsin with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Sam Dekker finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist. Frank Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson both added 15 points and Nigel Hayes rounded out the double digit Badger scorers with 11 points.
The Illini were led in scoring by Rayvonte Rice’s 19 points. Despite having those 19 points, Rice took several ill-advised, early in the shot clock, 3 point attempts in the first half of play and he finished the night 7-21 from the floor including 1-5 from 3 point land. After halftime, the Illini began attacking the rim, but at that point it was too little too late. Joseph Bertrand was the only other Illini in double figures tonight, finishing the contest with 18 points on 7-10 shooting from the floor.
Wisconsin turned the ball over 4 times to Illinois’ 8. There is nothing wrong with 8 turnovers as a team in a game so this has to be considered a team bright spot for Illinois.
The other bright spot of the game was rebounding. Illinois led the rebounding battle at the half 22-20, and finished the game with 48 rebounds to Wisconsin’s 35. The Illini actually had 25 offensive rebounds, but most of those resulted in missed putbacks, feeding in to their final shooting percentage of 31.6% from the floor as they converted 25-79 shots.
The bottom line here is that Illinois got a chance to measure where they are at as a team at this point in the season, and it’s very clear they have a long way to go to get to where they want to be by March. There is no time to dwell on this loss, however, as Illinois is going to get the chance to right the ship in just 4 days time when they travel to Evanston on Sunday to face the 7-8 (0-2 in the Big Ten) Northwestern Wildcats.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.