The first half was dreadful for Wisconsin from the perimeter (1-for-12, 8.3 percent), but the 3-point shot was key in Wisconsin's 10-0 run to start the second half and put significant distance between the two schools. Keaton Nankivil may not be a first-team All-Big Ten selection, but he certainly deserves some kind of recognition for the season he's having. Nankivil is shooting 57.1 percent from 3-point range in conference games and his 16 made 3-pointers in conference games lead the team.
Jon Leuer's 26 points were his 24th straight double-digit game and seventh 20-point game of the season. More importantly, he showed ownership, saying he let his team down against Michigan State and made a point to stay aggressive throughout the second half, especially when Illinois made a run to cut the lead to six with 33 seconds left.
Jordan Taylor's 22 points were a season high, but his shooting was ugly, going just 3-for-10 from the floor and 0-for-3 from three-point range. Taylor will need to find better efficiency from the floor in the coming weeks with a pair of challenging back-to-back road tests on the horizon.
Wisconsin didn't get a lot of point production from other sources, but hats off to Mike Bruesewitz for diving seemingly everywhere on the floor for loose balls and mixing it up inside for rebounds and to Tim Jarmusz, whose atoned for his airball 3-pointer at MSU with a big three at the end of the first half, a shot that gave UW a spark heading into halftime.
In a game the refs decided was no longer going to be a contact sport, it is hard to judge what a defense was capable of. Any time Demetri McCamey was touched the zebras whistled for a foul. He shot 21 free throws on the day, and nearly gave Coach Bo Ryan a heart attack from the shock and indignation he displayed at each blown whistle.
The perimeter defense was excellent, however, holding the Illini to 4-of-16 shooting from three-point range. Most impressively, UW defenders never let the pick-and-pop combination of McCamey and Mike Tisdale to get going, holding the sweet shooting big man to eight points on the day.
UW's size and length caused problems inside, with Illinois shooting just 30.2 percent on the day, a season low.
In a game the Badgers absolutely needed to win, they did more than enough to secure the victory at home. They didn't let the bad calls get in their heads and Jordan Taylor had the awareness to play a little more physical on the offensive end to earn him a few trips to the free throw line.
Although Rob Wilson clearly remains in timeout after making several mental mistakes against Michigan State, the starting lineup of Leuer, Nankivil, Jarmusz, Berggren and Taylor worked well, posing problems inside and on the glass.
Game MVP: Nankivil. His 14 points came at opportune times and his defense on Tisdale shouldn't be overlooked. The key sequence for Nankivil was when he got inside position on Tisdale, got the Illini senior to commit his third foul and watched from his seat on the bench as Nankivil hit a three in front of his replacement.