The Badgers were effective in spurts on the offensive end but ultimately missed too many open looks from the perimeter to pull out the victory. Similar to stretches last year, Wisconsin relied heavily on perimeter jump-shots and got in trouble when these shots were not falling.
As usual, Wisconsin did not turn the ball over but also struggled to get the ball into the paint. The inability to get the ball down low limited the Badgers to 12 free throws attempts, while Illinois got to the line 22 times. In the past, Wisconsin routinely won games at the free throw line; however, outside of Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, this year's team is devoid of any players capable of attacking the basket.
Furthermore, both Taylor and Leuer struggled from the floor tonight and subsequently the offense stalled during a crucial stretch in the second half. When Taylor and Leuer struggle, there appears to be few current Badgers with the skill set required to create offense and make plays when the Swing is not providing open looks.
The Badgers played solid defense at times and did a good job protecting the defensive glass, despite the Illini's length and athleticism. However, the Badgers lack of perimeter foot speed, slow reaction times and hesitancy to leave shooters, resulted in an extremely efficient night from the floor for Illinois. The Illini kept the Badgers off-balance by quickly swinging the ball around the perimeter and attacking the paint off the dribble.
Wisconsin appeared a step slow on defensive rotations and did a poor job of containing Illinois off the dribble. Going into the season, there was concern over how the Badgers would handle a team with multiple athletes at the wing positions. This still remains a concern as the Badgers do not have players at the wing positions that possess strong foot speed or lateral quickness.
Lastly, it should be noted that some credit should be given to Illinois for making an extremely high percentage of their shots (56.1 percent). Sometimes, it is less about how you play and more about catching an opponent on the wrong night. It appears this may have been the case as the Badgers ran into a red-hot Illini team.
Throughout Big Ten play over the past two years, the Badgers depended on perimeter shooting to drive the offense. Big men Keaton Nankivil and Leuer certainly contribute to this trend as both players are capable perimeter shooters and at times appear more comfortable facing up from the outside.
This is a break from Bo Ryan teams in the past that consistently got into the paint and used the three-point shot as a supplement rather than a constant. It will be interesting to see if the Badgers can find a way to get points in the paint and subsequently get to the free throw line as the Big Ten season heats up. If not, the Badgers could see their season determined by how they shoot from the perimeter.
Game MVP: Taylor. He didn't shoot particularly well (6 of 16, 3 of 9 from three-point range), but finished with 19 points and had five assists to no turnovers in 38 minutes.