CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A quick turnaround was no problem for the University of Wisconsin.
The victory kept Wisconsin (19-3, 8-1 Big Ten) tied with Maryland for first place in the Big Ten conference. The Terrapins won at Ohio State, 77-70, earlier Tuesday and are a perfect 9-0 away from home. UW and Maryland have been tied in the loss column since Jan.8.
After strong second-half performances have helped Wisconsin erase early mistakes in previous outings, the Badgers flipped the script with one of their best opening 20 minutes in weeks.
Although outscoring teams by 12.4 points in the paint per game, Wisconsin opened the game on a 16-2 run with its outside game. Happ, Bronson Koenig (nine points), Nigel Hayes (11) and Zak Showalter (eight) all hit jumpers and the shots kept pouring in for Wisconsin.
After making only five field goals in the first half Saturday, extending its streak of three straight games shooting less than 40 percent in the first half, Wisconsin made 12 of its first 23 shots and shot 42.4 percent in the opening half to lead by 13 at the break.
UW still had the low-post aggressiveness, evident by the early rebounding numbers. The Badgers out-rebounded Illinois 22-14, had a 12-6 edge and grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the opening half.
Five of those offensive rebounds came on what turned out to be the final possession of the first half, as UW had the ball for the remaining 1:41 on a possession that ended with Vitto Brown’s put-back make with a second left.
UW finished the game out-rebounding Illinois 45-36, including 19-16 on the offensive glass.
Dropping to 10-3 at home this season, the Illini (13-10, 3-7) lost its 11th straight to the Badgers.
Held to its lowest first-half point total of the season, Illinois – which came in shooting 49.9 percent from the floor and 42.8 percent from 3-point range in 12 home games this season - made a 16-7 run to cut the Badgers lead to 42-36 at the midpoint of the second half, but Showalter hit a 3-pointer to spark a 9-1 run that rebuilt the lead.
UW led by at least 12 the remained of the game, as the Badgers held their 11th opponent to a season-low point total.
After playing two road games in four days, Wisconsin is off until Sunday when it hosts Indiana.
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