When: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2004, 7 p.m. CST
Site: Assembly Hall (16,450), Champaign, Ill.
Broadcasts: ESPN Plus (WISC-TV in Madison), Wisconsin Radio Network
Series Notes: Illinois leads all-time series 101-67
Riding high off another dominating win at home, No. 10 Wisconsin faces the daunting task of testing the road for two games this week, the first being Wednesday at Illinois.
The game marks the second time the two teams will meet this regular season. The Badgers already won on their home court Jan. 24 in convincing fashion, behind a 30-point effort from junior guard Devin Harris. However, Harris and the Badgers will now face a sea of orange in Illinois, in one of the toughest places to play in the Big Ten.
"At home they play a lot more aggressive, they play to the
crowd, they like to run and gun and get into an up-tempo type game and we have
to settle down early,
fight their first run and hope to sustain it the rest of the game," Harris said.
Assembly Hall in Champaign has been a very difficult place for opponents to play. The home team is 61-3 in the building since the 1999-2000 season and seems to provide its finest performances in friendly confines. The Fighting Illini are 5-1 at home in conference play this season.
No matter where they play, the Illini are a full load to handle defensively. Illinois is the Big Ten's top scoring team, averaging 74.2 points per game and has six players averaging between eight and 13 points per contest.
"They have a lot of scorers," Wisconsin sophomore guard Boo Wade said. "(Deron) Williams is great, (James) Augustine, (Roger) Powell, they have a lot of players and great post players so its more than just stopping Dee (Brown). But, we have to slow the guards down, distract them, so they are not able to get the big men going. Because if the big men are going, then their outside is going and they are real tough to stop."
Wisconsin is 2-2 in Big Ten road games this season. In order to maintain their slight lead in the conference standings, the Badgers will have to be clicking on all cylinders in the challenging atmosphere they face Wednesday.
"It's pretty much simple," Harris said. "The games where we followed the game plan are the games we are pretty much close in and we end up winning and the games that got away from us are the one's we lost. It's as simple as that."
The Harris-Brown matchup may be the marquee event, but the battle in the post is just as important. Badger junior forward Mike Wilkinson has improved his play and needs to stay active and aggressive down low versus Illinois sophomore forward James Augustine in order to help UW set the tempo for the game. The more Augustine gets involved early, the better Illinois' chances of dictating the pace of the game. Wilkinson dominated this matchup in the first outing, scoring 24 points, including 14 in the first 14 minutes of the game. Augustine was held to eight points.
By the Numbers
34.0 – Opponent's shooting percentage in Illinois' last five victories.
12.8 – Illinois' average number of offensive rebounds per game, third in the Big Ten.
0 – UW's victories this season when trailing at halftime.
56.5 – The number of points Wisconsin is allowing per game, fewest in the conference.
12.6 – Wisconsin's average margin of victory.