Breakdown: Illinois vs. No.5 Wisconsin

Looking to maintain its healthy lead in the Big Ten, No.5 Wisconsin goes for its eighth straight win when it hosts Illinois at the Kohl Center Sunday. BadgerNation takes a closer look at the second hottest team in the Big Ten and breaks down the matchup.

Illinois (17-8, 7-5 Big Ten) vs. No.5 Wisconsin (22-2, 10-1 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Sunday, February 15, 12 p.m. Central

Arena –Kohl Center (17,279)

Television -CBS (Ian Eagle and Bill Raftery)

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

Series – Illinois leads 110-82 (Wisconsin leads 55-39 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 75-63, on February 4, 2014 in Champaign, Ill.

Wisconsin Probable Starters

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.3 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-9 Junior Forward, 13.2 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-4 Senior Guard, 7.5 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 7.2 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Senior Forward, 17.3 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 2.6 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-10 Senior Forward, 5.5 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Sophomore Guard, 2.4 ppg)

Illinois Probable Starters

1 Jaylon Tate (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 4.0 ppg)

12 Leron Black (6-7 Freshman Forward, 5.3 ppg)

21 Malcolm Hill (6-6 Sophomore Forward, 14.6 ppg)

25 Kendrick Nunn (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 11.8 ppg)

32 Nnanna Egwu (6-11 Senior Center, 7.0 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 Ahmad Starks (5-9 Senior Guard, 7.8 ppg)

11 Aaron Cosby (6-3 Junior Guard, 7.8 ppg)

24 Rayvonte Rice (6-4 Senior Guard, 16.4 ppg)

Last Meeting

Shooting the basketball efficiently from all parts of the court, balanced scoring with four players in double figures and an aggressive defensive effort, the Badgers got back to their brand of basketball in a 75-63 victory over Illinois at the State Farm Center.

Sam Dekker and Ben Brust each had 16, while Traevon Jackson and Nigel Hayes added 14 to help Wisconsin (18-5, 5-5 Big Ten) shoot 47.8 percent overall, 43.5 percent from 3-point range and 80.5 percent from the free throw line. As a result, the Badgers won their seventh straight over Illinois – the longest such streak in UW history – and won their third straight at Illinois since the 1906-08 season.

No matter how it was presented to them, this was a “get well” win after a difficult stretch in which it lost five of six.

Those adverse moments came in the second half when the Badgers went through one of their scoring swoons. Making only three field goals during an 11-minute stretch in the second half, Wisconsin had a 10-point lead get whittled down to as little as two points on a stretch filled with turnovers and missed jumpers.

Unlike the previous games, however, Wisconsin found a way to close. UW scored on six straight possessions to build a 63-55 lead with 3:37 left, capped with a give-and-go play between Dekker and Brust, a deep Josh Gasser 3-pointer and a 3-pointer from Dekker from the top of the key.

UW closed the game scoring at least one point on 12 of its final 14 possessions, getting big lifts from struggling plays. In addition to Dekker’s 3-pointer from the top of the key, Dekker hit another one from the left elbow to make the score 66-57. On a 2-for-20 stretch before making his first 3-pointer in the first half, Dekker’s four threes tied a career high.

Wisconsin was 10 of 23 from 3-point range compared to 4-for-10 from Illinois.

Jackson was another struggling UW player who bounced back, finishing with 14 points, 5 of 7 on free throws, seven rebounds, three assists and one turnover. UW out rebounded Illinois 31-25 and got a combined 19 rebounds from three guards, including a team-high eight from Gasser.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Time Out

LINCOLN, Neb. - Despite looked lethargic on both ends of the court for long stretches in the second half, No.5 Wisconsin managed to avoid major trouble and outlast Nebraska, 65-55, at Pinnacle Bank Arena Tuesday.

Junior forward Sam Dekker made the majority of the plays for Wisconsin (22-2, 10-1 Big Ten), scoring a season-high 21 points – 13 in the first half - on 8-for-13 shooting. Not only did Dekker tie his career high, he also added eight rebounds.

Senior Frank Kaminsky registered his ninth double-double of the season with 13 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks, and sophomore Bronson Koenig also chipped in with 13 points, including going 5-for-6 from the line.

The win – the program’s seventh straight – gives Wisconsin a winning conference record for the 15th straight season and extends its Big Ten lead to three full games with seven to go. None of the five Big Ten teams tied in second place are waving the white surrender flag, but nobody would blame them if they did.

Since losing 67-62 to Rutgers on Jan. 11, the Badgers haven’t trailed by more than four points and have only trailed for 12:39 of a possible 285 minutes during that stretch

It looked like another runaway late in the second half. Up 15 points with 3:45 to go, Wisconsin finally saw Nebraska (13-11, 5-7) makes its run with an 8-0 spurt that finally got its stagnate crowd back into the game.

The lead shrunk to as little as five with 1:04 remaining, but the Badgers, who went the last 4:53 without a field goal and shot just 6-for-17 in the second half, went 24-for-31 from the free throw line, including 15-for-18 over that final 3:45.

That production neutralized a Huskers team that scored on 11 of its final 17 possessions and made the Badgers feel a lot better about their 39.1 shooting percent – the second straight game UW has shot under 40 percent.

Terran Petteway had 16 of his 21 points in the second half, and Shavon Shields finished with 12 points, as the Huskers lost for only the third time at home in conference play the last two seasons.

- BadgerNation.com

Series Notes

Wisconsin has won seven straight over Illinois, the team’s longest-ever win streak vs. the Illini. That includes a four-game home winning streak.

Dating back to 2007, UW has won 14 of the last 18 meetings with Illinois, including sweeping the season series last year.

In the Ryan era, Illinois (3), Purdue (3), Ohio State and Michigan State (2) are the only Big Ten teams to win multiple games at the Kohl Center.

Reaching 60 points has been an incredible indicator in this series. The first team to score 60 points is 25-1 over the last 12 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 held Illinois to 70 or fewer points in each of their last 20 matchups.

UW has three players from the state of Illinois: Duje Dukan (Deerfield), Frank Kaminsky (Lisle) and redshirt Ethan Happ (Milan).

Wisconsin Notes

UW has won seven straight Big Ten games for the second-straight year, matching the school’s longest conference win streak since claiming 11 in a row in the 1940-41 season.

The Badgers have won four straight Big Ten games by double digits. The school record for consecutive double-digit league wins is five, set in 1916, 2007 and 2008.

With 21 points, 8 rebounds Tuesday at Nebraska, Dekker is averaging 14.5 ppg and 6.4 rpg while shooting 53.6 percent during Big Ten play.

UW has won 10 straight Big Ten home games and is 103-14 (880) at home vs. the B1G under Ryan.

Simply put, Kaminsky is doing it all for Wisconsin. He leads the Badgers in points (17.3), rebounds (8.3), assists (58), blocks (38) and FG percent (.540). He is also 2nd on the team in steals (19) and 3FG percent (.400) while shooting 76.5 percent at the FT line.

Illinois Notes

Illinois has already equaled last year's win total in conference play and its four-game winning streak is its longest in Big Ten play since recording five straight victories during Coach John Groce's first season from Feb. 7-21, 2013.

It has been 26 years since Illinois last defeated a Top-5 team on the road, a 70-67 win by Coach Lou Henson's Flyin' Illini at No. 3 Indiana on March 5, 1989, thanks to a Nick Anderson 35 footer at the buzzer.

Illinois has held its opponent to less than 70 points in 16 of 17 wins this season, and 41 of its last 43 victories dating back to Feb. 10, 2013 during Groce's first season.

Starks is averaging 9.9 points (69) while shooting 43.2 percent from 3-point range over the last seven games (16-37).

In conference-only games, Illinois' free throw shooting improves to 81.6 percent, ranked first in the Big Ten. The Illini have three players shooting better than 82 percent from the line during conference play.

Prediction

Losing a team’s leading scorer in conference play was supposed to be a crippling blow to Illinois, especially during a December stretch were they lost four of eight and the first game of January. It was after that January 3 loss that Rayvonte Rice, who was averaging 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, broke his hand in practice and was then suspended two weeks ago for unspecified rules violations.

Enter Malcolm Hill, a sophomore guard who started the final 12 games and took the Rice absence and ran with it. In the nine games without Rice, Hill averaged 17.7 points and scored in double figures in all nine games, including a 28-point performance in a home-upset over Maryland in the first game post-Rice.

Combined with sophomore Kendrick Nunn averaging 16.1 points over that stretch, accounting for 52.9 percent of the team’s scoring on the stretch, Illinois went 6-3 (tied for second best in the Big Ten over that span) and held opponents to 58 points or less in five of six wins.

And now that Rice is back, Illinois has another weapon at its disposal.

Trailing 50-43 at home to Michigan Thursday night, the Illini scored the next 21 points of the game in the last 3:13 of regulation and into overtime, beating the Wolverines, 64-52, for their fourth straight win.

Rice returned from suspension against Michigan, scored four points on 2-of-7 shooting and providing a couple key energy plays late in the game.

“I don’t know if I was supposed to play him 27 minutes,” Groce said. “Once he got to that second wind and the crowd and the atmosphere got it going and got his juices going. He didn’t get fatigued, he kept playing. I thought today he just kind of tried to play the right way; he didn’t play out of character. A lot of guys as talented as Ray probably wouldn’t have done that.”

Rice put his numbers in an efficient manner too, shooting 51.5 percent from the field, 48.3 percent from three and 80.3 percent from the foul line. There’s also something about Wisconsin that brings out production in Rice, as he averaged 21.5 points and nine rebounds in two games against the Badgers last year.

Illinois started Big Ten play with a 3-5 record, allowing 67.9 points per game with opponents shooting nearly 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from three point range. The Illini defense has made major strides since, propelling the team to a current four-game win streak. Illinois has held each of its last four opponents to less than 60 points, permitting an average of 54.5 points on 39.7 percent shooting and 26.8 percent behind the arc.

There’s a small caveat, however. In the last nine games, Illinois has played six games against the bottom half of the league. How will the young Illini handle a veteran team that is starting to click on both ends of the floor? Illinois’ defense and scoring will put Wisconsin to the test, but the Badgers playing at home with their experience should be enough to win this game by 12.

Worgull's Record: 22-2

Points off Prediction: 184 (7.9 per game)


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