Preview: Wisconsin at Illinois

After both programs closed January with a dud, Wisconsin and Illinois look to start February fresh by getting a win to propel them back near the top of the Big Ten race.

Wisconsin (14-7, 5-3 Big Ten) at Illinois (15-7, 2-6 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Sunday, February 3, 2:30 p.m. Central

Arena –Assembly Hall (16,618)

Television - Big Ten Network (Eric Collins and Shon Morris)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Illinois leads 110-79 (Illinois leads 68-22 in Champaign)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 74-51, on January 12, 2013 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Junior Guard, 10.3 ppg)

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Senior Forward, 10.4 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 6.0 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Senior Forward, 7.2 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Senior Forward, 11.9 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 George Marshall (5-11 Freshman Guard, 5.6 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-7 Freshman Forward, 9.0 ppg)

32 Zak Showalter (6-2 Freshman Guard, 2.3 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Sophomore Forward, 4.4 ppg)

Illinois Probable Starters

0 Sam McLaurin (6-8 Graduate Forward, 4.1 ppg)

1 D.J. Richardson (6-3 Senior Guard, 11.9 ppg)

3 Brandon Paul (6-4 Senior Guard, 17.6 ppg)

13 Tracy Abrams (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 11.5 ppg)

32 Nnanna Egwu (6-11 Sophomore Center, 6.3 ppg)

Off the Bench

2 Joe Bertrand (6-6 Junior Guard, 8.4 ppg)

10 Mike LaTulip (6-0 Freshman Guard, 1.5 ppg)

20 Myke Henry (6-6 Sophomore Forward, 3.5 ppg)

42 Tyler Griffey (6-9 Senior Forward, 7.0 ppg)

Last Time Out

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BadgerNation) -The bounces were finally going Wisconsin's way, the defense was holding Ohio State in check and the three-point shot was dropping. And just like that, everything stopped, and Wisconsin couldn't recover in time.

Going scoreless for over seven minutes and seeing forward Deshaun Thomas find his groove down the stretch, the Badgers reverted back to their offensive woes to allow No.11 Ohio State to claim a 58-49 victory at Value City Arena.

The victory is the 64th straight home victory for Ohio State (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten) against unranked opponents, and keeps the Buckeyes a half game out of first place in the Big Ten. Wisconsin (14-7, 5-3) on the other hand was held to less than 40 percent shooting (36.5 percent) and 50 points for the third-straight game.

But the offense wasn't the biggest problem for the Badgers – who dropped into fifth place in the league - as much as it was their lack of interior defense in the second half, particularly when Thomas got going. Being stymied by Wisconsin's defense in the first half, Ohio State's second-half adjustments proved productive. Missing its first field goal of the second half, Ohio State hit eight straight attempts to take its first lead since 13-11.

The Buckeyes weren't done, as Ohio State took advantage of nine straight empty possessions and a 7:10 scoring drought from Wisconsin to build a nine-point lead, the largest of the game.

The 15-0 run was spurred by Thomas, who scored eight of his points during the stretch, and points in the paint. Ohio State scored 34 points in the paint, including eight virtual uncontested layups.

"That's how you end up going on a 15-point run," said assistant coach Lamont Paris, as Ohio State was shooting 88.9 percent from the floor at one point. "They attacked the basket. You've got to give them credit for that, but we didn't do a good job defending the paint area."

After the Ohio State surge, Wisconsin got back-to-back three-pointers from Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren, but the Badgers made only one bucket in the final 4:29. In UW's final 19 possessions, Wisconsin scored only eight points.

Last Meeting

MADISON (BadgerHerald) - If there were any doubts that Wisconsin is a legitimate offensive threat, they were buried within the first 20 minutes of its game with Illinois Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers opened up the game on a 14-0 run thanks to seven quick points from redshirt senior center Jared Berggren, eventually extending their lead to 31-7 in the game's first 15 minutes and never looking back.

Wisconsin out-rebounded Illinois 43-24, racking up 18 offensive boards, a ghastly number for Illini head coach John Groce considering the Badgers racked up 23 points off second chances.

"I thought [Wisconsin] dominated every facet of the game, especially in the first half," Groce said. "At the end of the day their competitive spirit was better than ours to start the game. That is unacceptable."

It was a complete 180 for an Illinois team who hung tough with the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the country, Minnesota, on Wednesday, only allowing seven offensive rebounds.

"We were hungry on the glass, and it showed," Bruesewitz said, who recorded eight rebounds on the game.

Berggren recorded the first double-double of his career, with a team best 15 points and leading all players with 12 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Traevon Jackson recorded a career-high 14 points against the Illini, while freshman Sam Dekker and redshirt senior Ryan Evans scored 13 and 10 points, respectively.

A key part of the offensive explosion by UW, Berggren was a force all-day on both ends of the court, making several tips on rebounds for baskets and bringing in seven offensive rebounds, including an alley-oop from Dekker to bring the lead to 29-7 in the first half and send the Kohl Center into a frenzy. Berggren also recorded two blocks on the game, giving him a Big Ten-best 33 on the season.

"It's about time," Berggren said with a smile about his double-double. "Hopefully it's the first of many."

Dekker and Evans provided some fireworks in the second half with a pair of electrifying dunk. Dekker's came at the 11:10 mark of the second half following his own steal, as he took the ball coast-to-coast and finished with a one-hand slam.

Evans came just thirty seconds in to the second half, driving to the hoop with a man draped over him and throwing a two-handed slam over his defender.

Wisconsin held Illinois to just 26 percent shooting in the first half and 35 for the entire game, including star Illini guard Brandon Paul to just 1-for-11 from the field. Paul finished with just eight points on the day, well below his season average of 18 points per game.

Series Notes:

Wisconsin has won 11 of the last 15 meetings with Illinois, including four straight. UW has won in four of its last six trips to Assembly Hall, including last season's 67-63 win.

Reaching 60 points has been an incredible indicator in this series. The first team to score 60 points is 22-1 over the last 11 seasons. The only loss was UW's 71-64 comeback win on 1/20/07 (ILL led 60-57 with 5:07 left).

Wisconsin has 5 players from the state of Illinois: Ben Brust (Hawthorn Woods), Duje Dukan (Deerfi eld), Dan Fahey (Chicago), Frank Kaminsky (Lisle) and George Marshall (Chicago).

The Badgers are now 7-4 against teams with John Groce on staff. Groce went 1-0 vs. UW as an assistant at Butler (2001) and 3-6 while at Ohio State (2005-08).

Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers have held 15 of 21 opponents under 60 points on the season, the second-highest total in the nation. Only Virginia (17) has kept more foes below 60.

As a team, the Badgers rank 6th in the Big Ten shooting 34.9 percent from 3-point range. UW is also 3rd in the conference averaging 7.9 made triples per game

After scoring at a rate of 1.28 points per possession vs. Illinois, 1.10 at Indiana and 1.03 at Iowa, the Badgers are now averaging 1.09 points per possession this season according to That figures ranks 5th in the Big Ten and tied for 39th in the nation.

UW has averaged over 1.0 offensive points per possession in each of Bo Ryan's first 11 seasons. This season's 1.11 PPP would rank as UW's 3rdhighest mark of the Bo Ryan era.

Illinois Notes:

Illinois is playing its ninth game on Super Bowl Sunday and has a home game for the eighth time. The Illini are 5-3 all-time when playing before the Super Bowl.

Illinois has faced seven opponents currently in the RPI Top 25, the most of any team in the nation. Illinois is 3-4 vs. the RPI Top 25.

Illinois averages 76.6 points on 45.7 percent shooting and 37.1 percent 3-point shooting in its 15 wins, compared to averaging 63.0 points on 37.1 percent shooting and 24.6 percent 3-point shooting in its six losses.

Illinois has been led by solid play from its starting guards in seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson and sophomore Tracy Abrams. They are currently the team's top three scorers as well as top three assists and steals leaders. The trio has accounted for 56.8 percent of Illinois' scoring and 67.2 percent of its 3-pointers. They have also totaled 73.4 percent of Illinois' assists and 56.6 percent of its steals.


Sunday's game will mark the first time since 1998 that Wisconsin and Illinois will meet with neither team appearing in the AP Top-25. That snaps a streak of 29 straight games featuring at least one ranked team. Just goes to show how far these two teams have fallen in the month of January (Illinois losing five of six and Wisconsin losing three of four).

The same could be said for a lot of players on Wisconsin's roster with its offensive production, namely Jared Berggren and his absent low-post game. In the last four games, Berggren has attempted a combined 19 shots inside three-point range (4.75 attempts per game). In the first four conference games, Berggren attempted 33 shots from two-point range (8.25 per game). As a result, Berggren dropped from nine points per game from two-point range down to four.

Good thing for him that he is averaging 15.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in his last three games versus the Illini, including a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) in this season's earlier match-up.

Wisconsin needs Berggren and it needs its defense, especially on the exterior. Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten and 23rd in the NCAA with an average of 8.2 three-point field goals per game. The Illini nailed nine 3-pointers on 26 attempts at MSU, shooting 36 percent.

That was a drastic change from when Illinois traveled to Wisconsin. Entering the game ranked third in the NCAA in made 3-pointers per game at 9.0, the Badgers held the Illini to just 2-for-14 shooting from downtown.

Wisconsin has allowed just 82 total 3-pointers this season, an average of 3.90 triples per game. That figure leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the NCAA. Wisconsin's interior defense was horrendous against Ohio State – the main reason the Buckeyes attempted only five three-pointers – so UW needs a better total effort.

Like the Super Bowl, this is expected to be a defensive slugfest. The Illini have not lost four straight at home since the 2007-08 season. The Badgers badly need a win to stay afloat in the Big Ten and in the NCAA Tournament discussion. My initial gut said Wisconsin, so I'll foolishly stick with the Badgers by two.

Worgull's Record: 13-8

Points off Prediction: 232 (11.05 per game)

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