Tuesday night started out grim for the Fighting Illini. James Augustine picked up two fouls before he even learned what Brian Butch looked like, and it looked like the Illini were going to have to play the rest of the first half without him. Wisconsin took advantage of Augustine's foul trouble by quickly running out and grabbing a 26-11 lead with 9:19 left in the first half. To say it looked like the Illini were about to be run out of Madison giving the Badgers another win in the Kohl Center would be an understatement.
Bruce Weber could sense that his Fighting Illini were about to lose the game and he made a bold move: he put James Augustine back in the basketball game. In games past Weber has let the first half end before going back to his front line players riddled with foul trouble (either Randle or Augustine), but tonight was different. Weber knew that a win in Madison would put the Illini in the driver's seat for their third straight Big Ten Championship, and he had to take the risk of Augustine picking up his third foul to ensure Illinois was not heading into the break down fifteen or more.
The reinsertion of Augustine in the lineup sparked a 19-0 Illinois run, and the Illini never looked back. Yes, Augustine was on the floor for the entire run, and he did not pick up his third foul until the second half, but the run was a complete team effort. Sophomore Brian Randle was a thorn in the side of the Badgers on the offensive glass every possession pulling down seven offensive rebounds in the game, including six in the first half. Junior shooting guard Rich McBride continued from where he left off after the Purdue game in Champaign with a more aggressive offensive game, scoring sixteen points, tied with Dee Brown for the team lead. Also joining McBride and Brown in double figures were the aforementioned Randle, and freshman Jamar Smith.
Offensive Efficiency: 108.13
Defensive Efficiency: 83.55
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 44.11%
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 80.0%
Not only did James Augustine spend a lot of time on the bench in the first half, but two other Illinois starters were saddled with foul trouble. Both Rich McBride and Brian Randle picked up two fouls before halftime, and were forced to take a seat next to the Illini assistant coaches over it. In the first half, Wisconsin only picked up two fouls, compared to eleven for the Illini. Bo Ryan's magical, and patented "no-foul" defense was on display for every one to see and learn from. It is amazing no one has learned this "no fouling" concept for defense, especially when they play in Madison. Before Wisconsin started to foul to put the Illini on the line at the end of the game (a decision they should have made earlier due to Illinois' poor foul shooting throughout the season), the Badgers had only committed eight fouls, while McBride, Randle, and Augustine had combined to commit twelve.
Picking a player of the game for the Illini on Tuesday night would be extremely difficult. You could make a case for Brian Randle, Rich McBride, James Augustine, Jamar Smith, and Dee Brown. While the cases for Augustine and Brown are weaker than the cases for the other three players, all five players played key roles in the Illini win over the Badgers. Rich McBride provided solid defense on Wisconsin's Ray Nixon, and showed for the second straight game that he can be the reliable third scorer on the Illini offense with a diversified attack. Jamar Smith did not miss a shot. But it was Brian Randle that should garner the Player of the Game Award on Tuesday night.
Randle, who scored all twelve of his points in the first half, was a defensive presence against Wisconsin's Alando Tucker, and a menace on the offensive glass. When he was in the game, every missed shot seemed to fall right into his hands, either via a tip in, or just a reset of the possession. The Badgers had no answer for Randle on the glass, and it showed, especially in the Illini's 19-0 run in the first half.
BRUMBY'S RANDOM THOUGHTS
- Illinois' win over Wisconsin in Madison becomes only the second time in twenty-eight games that a team has defeated a member of the top seven in the Big Ten on the road. The only other team to do so was Michigan State in Columbus.
- As Illinois' Head Coach, Bruce Weber is 5-2 against Bo Ryan. I think that says it all.