Game Day Grades: Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - What three game losing streak? Using its aggressiveness on the boards and winning most of the hustle opportunities, Wisconsin knocks off No.22 Illinois, 67-63, to move within a half game of first place in the Big Ten. Badger Nation hands out the grades.

Offense: B

The Badgers did a good job on offense with their dribble penetration giving the Illini problems. Ben Brust, and Jordan Taylor both attacked the rim effectively for the Badgers, and the end results reflected that.

The Badgers ended up with two players in double figures against Illinois with Taylor ending up with a game-high 19 points and Jared Berggren with 18 points. Brust had nine points coming off the bench for the Badgers, who had a 14-0 edge in bench points.

Wisconsin had problems taking care of the ball in the first five minutes of the game, averaging a turnover a minute. After the first five minutes, the Badgers settled down in the game and ended up only having 10 turnovers in the game.

Wisconsin shot the ball well going 24 of 54 (44.4 percent) from the floor. They also went 9 of 22 (40.9 percent) from distance.

If Wisconsin did lose this game, you could have pointed to free throw shooting. The Badgers got to the charity stripe 18 times only making 10, including 2 of 9 in the first half. You can't leave points out on the floor like that. Luckily at the end of the game, the Badgers made their free throws to close out the game (5 of 6 in the final 22 seconds by Taylor).

Defense: B

Wisconsin allowed four of the Illini starters to score in double figures. Meyers Leonard led the Illini with 16 points. The Badgers held the Illini to 24 of 55 (43.6 percent) shooting from the floor.

Brandon Paul, who can get hot at any time for the Illini, was held in check and only scored 10 points on 3 of 11 shooting. The Badgers did a good job of getting a hand in his face and they tried to challenge every shot he took.

The Badgers were able to force the Illini to cough the basketball up nine times. Four of the nine turnovers came off of Badger steals. Mike Bruesewitz, Taylor, Gasser, and Berggren all had a steal apiece.

With Illinois having players who can score, it was important for the Badgers to limit the Illini second-chance opportunities. The Illini only had four offensive rebounds in the game, leading to four second-chance points.

The Badgers had some trouble in the second half defending Leonard, scoring 14 points in the second half. Berggren, Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans all rotated and took turns on defending Leonard. It was tough assignment with Bruesewitz having four fouls and Berggren and Evans each had three.

Overall: B+

The Badgers played well and Taylor, who has been playing well over the last three games, got a sidekick in Berggren. The two of them combined for 37 of the teams 67 points. Others stepped in, as well, when they needed to. In addition to Brust, Rob Wilson had five off the bench.

Wilson played well again. He seems to be playing with more confidence then he has in the past. He took and made his first shot, which was a three, and wasn't afraid to attack the hoop either. That's how he got his other two points off of a layup down the paint.

The Badgers also did a good job of getting points in transition. The guards did a good job of locating the outlet pass and getting the ball to the open man down the court.

Not only did Wisconsin do a good job of making sure the Illini didn't get any second chance points but they also won the rebounding battle, 33-31. But one area that cannot be over looked is that the Badgers grabbed seven offensive rebounds which led to 10-second chance points. It's important to try and give yourself those opportunities on the offensive end. Wisconsin did, and it led to another big road win.

Game MVP: Taylor. The MVP could go to Berggren, but Taylor closed the game out with one rebound shy of a double-double. He had 19 points; nine rebounds and also had five assists to zero turnovers in 39 minutes of work.

Taylor took what the Illini defense gave him and when they forced him to pass, his teammates stepped up and were able to convert. Taylor may not have shot a high percentage (only 5-for-15 from the floor) but he was able to find good shots for himself.

Taylor has really picked up his game of late during the Badgers current four game-winning streak. This is the Taylor Badgers fans were expecting to see at the beginning of the year.

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