Breakdown: No.23 Illinois at No.4 Wisconsin

Following its come-from-behind victory over No.22 Iowa Sunday, No.4 Wisconsin looks for a more balanced and complete performance against a ranked team when it faces No.23 Illinois at the Kohl Center tonight. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.23 Illinois (13-2, 2-0 Big Ten) at No.4 Wisconsin (15-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Wednesday, January 8, 8 p.m. Central

Arena –Kohl Center (17,249)

Television -Big Ten Network (Brian Anderson and Mike Kelley)

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

Series – Illinois leads 110-79 (Wisconsin leads 53-39 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 74-68, on February 3, 2013 in Champaign, Ill.

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.8 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.5 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 14.1 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 8.7 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 13.5 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 6.5 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 4.1 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.7 ppg)

Illinois Probable Starters

2 Joseph Bertrand (6-6 Senior Guard, 11.0 ppg)

13 Tracy Abrams (6-2 Junior Guard, 12.9 ppg)

24 Rayvonte Rice (6-4 Junior Guard, 18.7 ppg)

32 Nnanna Egwu (6-11 Junior Center, 7.9 ppg)

22 Jon Ekey (6-7 Graduate Forward, 8.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Jaylon Tate (6-3 Freshman Guard, 2.7 ppg)

10 Mike LaTulip (6-1 Sophomore Guard, 1.2 ppg)

21 Malcolm Hill (6-6 Freshman Forward, 3.3 ppg)

25 Kendrick Nunn (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.3 ppg)

Last Time Out

MADISON - Getting beaten on the boards, outmuscled in the low post and being tested like they hadn't been tested all season, Wisconsin appeared to be a possession away from losing

Then Iowa coach Fran McCaffery lost his cool when the officiating became too much for him, and the calm, cool and collected Badgers took control.

McCaffery's tirade turned the tide for Wisconsin, as the Badgers ripped off a 17-8 run following McCaffery's ejection and held on to earn a 75-71 victory at the Kohl Center Sunday night.

"We haven't really been in that type of situation much this year, so it was great to see us respond the way we did," said junior Josh Gasser. "Obviously that quick turn of events sure helped out a lot. We really got to see the grit, toughness and composure that we have as a team."

Off to its best start since the 1913-14 season, Wisconsin (15-0, 2-0 Big Ten) got 19 points from senior Ben Brust – all coming in the second half – along with 14 points from Gasser and at least eight points from four other players in a wild, whistled-filled contest that was elevated by that quick sequence of events with 11:52 remaining.

No.22 Iowa (12-3, 1-1) led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but were trying to hold on 41-39 edge despite starting the second half 2-for-14 from the floor, a stark turnaround from the 46.9 percent it shot in the second half.

That might have been the spark that lit McCaffery's fuse and after Gab Olaseni was whistled for Iowa's fifth team foul in a span of 3:40, McCaffery lost his cool. Admitting he was pushing for the first technical, which was given to him, McCaffery was shown the gate after bumping into another official as he went on his tirade at midcourt.

"The momentum was shifting, clearly, for a variety of reasons," said McCaffery. "Some of which is under our control, some of it's not. If I am going to get a T, typically, there is still 12, 13 minutes to go. There's time for us to figure out if we're going to play better, are we going to play tougher, are we going to play smarter than we were playing."

McCaffery denied at the time that the technicals were the difference in the game, while Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan thought the Badgers were making a push leading into that brouhaha, cutting a nine-point lead down to two in a four minute stretch early.

"When things like that happen in the game, you just go to the line, shoot your free throws and keep playing," said Ryan.

Brust admitted the momentum did swing from that point, starting with him making what he called the four hardest free throws of his life to give the Badgers their first lead since 3-2, sparking an 18-8 run over the next four minutes that re-energized the building.

A lot of the attention coming into Sunday was Badgers-turned-Hawkeyes forward Jarrod Uthoff (six points in 16 minutes) playing his first game since transferring from Wisconsin at the end of the 2011. In the end it was the Hawkeye-turned-Badgers guard Brust that made the difference.

Brust went 5-for-6 in the second half, 3-for-3 from 3-point range and 6-for-6 from the free throw line, helping the Badgers shoot 52.2 percent collectively as a team.

- Benjamin Worgull,

Last Meeting

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -Ben Brust and Wisconsin finally found its offense, and the Badgers can finally remember what it feels like to score consistently.

Helping Wisconsin break a three-game skid in which it failed to score over 50 points, Brust – a native of Mundelein, Ill. - had a game-high 20 points as Wisconsin beat Illinois, 74-68, Sunday at Assembly Hall to complete a regular season sweep of the Illini for the second straight season.

The Badgers (15-7, 6-3 Big Ten) built a 15-point lead in the second half, adding to the margin with strong defensive play and exploiting a size advantage in the paint. The Fighting Illini (15-8, 2-7 Big Ten) lost for the sixth time in seven games and dropped their fifth consecutive contest with Wisconsin.

"Any win in the Big Ten on the road (is important)," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "The way this league is going now, you look at the ranked teams that we've played, I still consider Illinois a ranked team because they were a ranked team."

Wisconsin controlled much of the first half, although both teams struggled to score, each shooting 25 percent (3 of 12) in the first eight-plus minutes of the game.

Wisconsin regained form after starting center Jared Berggren picked up his second foul just 11 minutes into the contest. The Badgers went on a 19-11 run to close the half, with Brust and reserve Frank Kamisky accounting for all but two of the points.

The second half went much of the same, as the Badgers finished with 24 points in the paint and converted 28 of 42 free throws. The sophomore Kaminsky, who returned Jan. 29 against Ohio State after missing three games due to an eye injury, scored a career-high 19 points.

Ryan said the sophomore forward struggled adjusting to the goggles in practice this week, but wore them while making 12 of 14 free throws.

Scoring in double figures for the first time since January 3, Brust finished 7 of 11 from the floor, logging 38 minutes and picking his spots to assert himself on offense.

Senior Ryan Evans scored 15 points, Mike Bruesewitz had nine and Berggren, hampered by foul trouble, chipped in six points and five rebounds.

- Benjamin Worgull,

Series Notes

Wisconsin has won 12 of the last 16 meetings with Illinois, including five straight.

At least one team has been ranked in 30 of the last 31 meetings between the two schools.

Reaching 60 points has been an incredible indicator in this series. The first team to score 60 points is 23-1 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 three players from the state of Illinois: Ben Brust (Hawthorn Woods), Duje Dukan (Deerfield) and Frank Kaminsky (Lisle).

The Badgers are 8-4 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).

Illinois faces its third ranked opponent this season in No. 4 Wisconsin. The Illini fell to No. 15 Oregon, 71-64, in Portland (Dec. 14), and the following week defeated No. 23 Missouri, 65-64, in St. Louis (Dec. 21). The Illini have lost two straight on the road versus Top-25 teams.

This is the highest-ranked Wisconsin team Illinois has ever faced in Madison. The Illini are 2-7 all-time on the road against ranked UW squads, last claiming victory at the Kohl Center on Feb. 9, 2010 with a 63-56 win over the No. 11 Badgers.

It has been 25 years since Illinois last defeated a Top-5 team on the road, a 70-67 win by the Flyin' Illini at No. 3 Indiana on March 5, 1989 thanks to a Nick Anderson 35 footer at the buzzer.

Illinois is 5-8 against ranked opponents under Groce.

Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers' 15 straight wins is also the team's second-longest win streak of all time. The UW record is 17 consecutive wins in the 2006-07 season.

Wisconsin is just the fifth Big Ten team to start the season 15-0 since 2001-02. Ohio State was 15-0 before losing at Michigan State last night.

The Badgers improved to 190-18 (.913) at home under Bo Ryan, including a mark of 92-11 (.893) at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin is 32-11 (.744) at home under Ryan against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, including five straight wins over ranked foes at the Kohl Center.

Trailing 35-24 at the half, Wisconsin overcame a double-digit second-half deficit to win for the first time since coming back from an 11-point halftime deficit vs. Arkansas on Nov. 24, 2012. The victory marked UW's 11th win when trailing by double digits in the second half under Bo Ryan and the sixth such comeback against a Big Ten opponent.

The Badgers trailed after halftime for just the 38th time in 208 home games under Ryan and scored a comeback win for the 25th time in those 38 games.

Illinois Notes

Joseph Bertrand has scored in double figures in each of his last four games against Wisconsin, averaging 13.5 points against the Badgers (54).

The Big Ten's leading scorer with an 18.7-point average (66th in NCAA), Rayvonte Rice has averaged 20.3 points over the last 10 games (203), led by a career-high 29 points against Indiana last Tuesday. Rice has combined for 72 points over the last three games.

The backcourt of Rice, Tracy Abrams and Bertrand have combined for nearly 67 percent of Illinois' scoring the last three games, totaling 155 of the UI's 232 points.

Illinois has topped 70 points in each of the last three games - all wins - improving to 9-0 this season and 23-2 overall under Coach John Groce when reaching the 70-point marker.

The UI starting five has clearly carried the scoring load, combining for 81.6 percent of Illinois' points on the season (885 of 1084).


After getting a pair of technicals and watching the last 11:50 from the visiting team's locker room, Fran McCaffery had some extra time on his hands to really sit and watch his Iowa team take on the fourth-ranked team in the country.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan may have one of his best teams in his tenure, a team with good odds to win a conference championship and make a deep run in this year's NCAA tournament, but McCaffery doesn't see a team that is all that different from what he's become accustomed to in his short time in the league.

"I don't know that there's anything other than they're staying true to what they do," McCaffery said Monday. "They do have an experienced team. They do have five 3-point shooters that start. They have seven 3-point shooters in the top eight. They have eight scorers in the top eight. They don't turn the ball over. They're always a threat to come back. They're always a threat to make shots late. You're not going to beat them with them missing free throws late. They aren't going to do that, so it really is going to take a tremendous effort to get them because of all those factors."

It's one of the main reasons why the Badgers are likely to be favored in every game remaining during the regular season, including being a 10-point favorite tonight against Illinois.

Illinois has made a lot of progress throughout the early parts of the season, getting a lift from a nonconference schedule that was challenging in some aspects for a younger team. Illinois played six road games in the nonconference schedule, doing it in a lot of different environments against a variety of teams with different styles, a lot like what Wisconsin did. They didn't play world beaters and did play one game in Chicago, but Illinois went 4-2 and lost its two games by a combined 10 points.

"I thought that really helped our team in terms of its growth and its ability to mature and evolve," said Illinois John Groce.

Although Illinois' two losses have come since Dec.3, Groce thinks Illinois' timing, understanding of concepts, adjustments and familiarity with one another has really taken stride over the past month, with its best performance, in terms of offensive execution and attention to details, being an 83-80 overtime win at home against Indiana.

But while Groce thought Illinois played hard through the first two games of the conference slate, including a 20-point win over Penn State, he calls Wisconsin ‘a terrific, well-coached basketball team' that's tough to play in any venue.

"They really play the game the right way, they play together at both ends of the floor and they do not beat themselves," said Groce. "They don't turn it over. They make free throws late. They make the extra pass. All the little discipline and details things that I think are important they do well."

Ryan acknowledged Monday that Illinois' development has been a lot like his team, as a combination of younger players giving something new to the mixture with older players working with them has led to a good test.

"I really haven't looked at Illinois as being young totally," said Ryan. "They do have an injection of maybe what you'd call inexperience in the Big Ten, but I don't think it's a surprise because of the talent level."

Groce acknowledged that Illinois has to beat Wisconsin because the Badgers aren't going to beat themselves, not with the Badgers having experience returning at all five starting positions and young players providing key lifts off the bench.

I think Wisconsin is a very good team, but I don't think they can be considered a great team until they show they can thoroughly dominate a ranked team. While playing a tough schedule already to this point, Wisconsin has played only two ranked teams, and trailed by double digits to both of them in the first half before righting the ship. That will only work for so long.

Wisconsin is playing at home and playing well. Illinois' young talent could give Wisconsin a push early, but I see the Badgers pulling away late to win by 12.

Worgull's Record: 12-3

Points off Prediction: 110 (7.3 per game)

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