History in the Making

With the opposing head coach calling them a matchup nightmare, No.4 Wisconsin showed just how scary it can be, putting five players in double figures and unleashing a 20-0 run in the first half that was the foundation for its 95-70 victory over No.23 Illinois Wednesday.

MADISON - Illinois coach John Groce knew that his team was up against "a monster."

Playing a Wisconsin team who could be led in scoring by six different players on any given night, who routinely puts at least four players in double figures, can spread the floor, shoot the 3-point shot and do so many of the little fundamentals right, Groce wasn't kidding himself.

"We played against some really good offensive teams," said Groce, pointing to Indiana, Missouri and Oregon, "but I thought as a whole, watching them collectively, they are the best offensive team we've had to defend all year to this juncture."

Groce was a math major, so he knew that Wisconsin going 24-for-38 from two-point range (63.2 percent) wasn't a recipe for success, not on the road and certainly not against this version of Wisconsin basketball.

The Badgers used that efficiency to top another record, this one 100 years in the making, as No.4 Wisconsin put forth an effort worthy of its stature during a 95-70 demolishing of No.23 Illinois Wednesday night at the Kohl Center.

Led by Ben Brust's 18 points, five players scored in double figures – for the fifth time this season – for Wisconsin, which shot 32-for-57 (56.1 percent) from the field and seems to break or tie a school record on a nightly occurrence.

The Badgers have started 16-0 for the first time in school history (surpassing the 1911-12 and 1913-14 seasons), moved within one game of tying the modern-era school record for consecutive wins and tied their longest winning streak ever against Illinois.

And unlike their past two games against ranked teams this season, the Badgers left no doubt from the start.

The only two ranked opponents UW has faced (No.11 Florida and No.22 Iowa) both built double-digit leads in the first half, forcing UW to claw its way back into the game on its home court.

No such problem this time. When the under eight media timeout hit, Wisconsin was shooting 60 percent overall (4-for-8 from deep and 8-for-12 inside the arc) and had just put the finishing touches on a 20-0 run that turned a 13-10 game into a laugher.

When it was all said and done, Wisconsin had another school record - its biggest margin of victory over a ranked opponent.

"When you have a talented group, like we have, that's one through five and three-four guys off the bench (who) are good, you have to take advantage what the defense gives you," said junior Traevon Jackson, as Wisconsin scored more points in the first 10 minutes (26) than it did in the first half against Iowa Sunday (24). "We preach on it, we try to do it. As long as we take care of the ball and take good shots, it's worked for us."

After seven turnovers Sunday, Jackson rebounded with four assists to two turnovers. Sam Dekker also got himself right with the basketball gods, shaking off a 2-for-12 performance against the Hawkeyes to go 6-for-8 for 17 points.

All this helped Wisconsin score at least 70 points in its seventh straight game, over 80 for the sixth time this season and scores at least 90 points in a regulation conference game for the first time since Jan. 1995 (97-73 vs. Northwestern).

"We have a bunch of guys (who) know how to make plays," said Dekker. "We all bring different things to the table."

Recently minted in the top25 for the first time this season, Illinois (13-3, 2-1) might not last long in the rankings after shooting only 31.6 percent from the floor. Rayvonte Rice led Illinois with 19 points on 7-of-21 shooting, missing four shots during the 20-0 run when the Badgers successfully defended 13 straight shots for 6 minutes, 20 seconds.

"You've got to respond to adversity better than that," said Groce. "We have responded to adversity better than that with this season. For some reason with his team during that stretch against a really good basketball team, that's offensively explosive as they are, you can't do that."

Not only was Wisconsin explosive, but they were opportunistic. The prime example occurred in the second half when Duje Dukan made a sliding save by tapping the ball to Brust.

Brust then drove the lane before dishing to Hayes, whose post move awarded him a bucket and a foul that he converted into a free throw. Of the Badgers 57 made shots, 11 had an assist to it, and many more were the result of an extra pass before that.

Wisconsin is clicking, but the machine isn't close to running at full steam.

"We can get so much better," said Jackson. "I still don't think we've haven't played a full game yet to our maximum potential, so we have to go and practice, look at the film and go out against Indiana and try and do that."


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