At the finish, Illini rise to challenge

Missed opportunities haunt Wisconsin

MADISON – For inspiration Tuesday, Deron Williams and Jack Ingram watched a little television.

"Me and Jack, we watched [ESPN's] ‘Pardon the Interruption' earlier today," Williams said. "They [the shows hosts] said we couldn't win in here and that just made me want it more."

Williams, Ingram and the rest of the top-ranked Illini proved they could win at the Kohl Center Tuesday night, snapping No. 18 Wisconsin's 38-game home winning streak with a 75-65 victory here to improve to 20-0 this season and 6-0 in the Big Ten.

To accomplish the feat the Illini absorbed a potential knockout blow: a 17-4 Wisconsin run that gave the Badgers a 56-48 lead with 12:40 left to play.

Illinois refused to wilt, however, taking UW's body shots before delivering a knockout punch of its own.

The Illini rattled off a 13-2 run to pull ahead 61-58 before Wisconsin jumped back up 64-61 on consecutive layups from senior forward Mike Wilkinson and a layup by sophomore forward Alando Tucker.

Tucker's bucket with four minutes, 34 seconds left, though, proved to be the Badgers' last field goal Tuesday.

Illinois closed the game on a 14-1 run, scoring 10 points at the free throw line and four on junior forward James Augustine's dunks.

The Badgers were oh so close, however, to making Tuesday's affair a more competitive event down the stretch.

Trailing 69-64 with two minutes left to play, UW senior guard Sharif Chambliss' 3-point attempt rolled around the rim and went out. One possession later sophomore guard Kammron Taylor, who started for the fifth time this season, burst to the lane for an open layup but had his shot slide off the rim with 1:21 left to play.

"If Kamm makes the layup we have a timeout coming," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "I'd already called for the timeout with the official in front of me and then it rolls off the rim.

"That one hurt because we were going to use those, try to use them down before the minute mark but you've got to score."

Instead of what could have been a 69-69 tie the Badgers still trailed 69-64 when Illini senior guard Luther Head stepped to the free throw line and made a pair with 1:13 left.

"Down the stretch the free throws were very big," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said.

In their last home game, the Badgers overcame an 8-point deficit to Michigan State with two minutes left.

There would not be a miraculous recovery this time.

Taylor made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:07 left to play to close out the Badgers' scoring. Head followed with two more free throws and Chambliss had another triple rim out with 52 seconds left.

After Illinois junior guard Dee Brown made 1 of 2 free throws with 43 seconds left, Taylor missed a 3 and Brown again made 1 of 2 from the charity line. UW senior guard Clayton Hanson's errant 3-point attempt with 29 seconds left proved to be the Badgers' final shot.

"You have to make them when they're there," Ryan said. "It's a moment that escaped."

"I liked those couple looks that Sharif had," Ryan said. "He shoots those pretty well. But if you are not scoring you can't stop the clock, you can't get set up with your pressure as easily."

Head led all scorers with 18 points and was one of four Illini in double figures. Augustine added 14 points and eight rebounds, Williams had 13 points and a game-high six assists and senior forward Roger Powell scored 11 points.

Ingram provided the added offensive boost the Illini needed Tuesday, knocking down a pair of triples with 8:19 and 7:41 left to play to cap the 13-2 run.

"Jack Ingram, I'm so proud of him," Weber said. "He's been so patient, kept a great attitude and he had a chance to shine tonight and he truly did."

The Badgers relied on forwards Alando Tucker and Mike Wilkinson while outscoring Illinois 23-13 to start the second half.

UW's leading scorers were held to a combined five points in the first half but Tucker scored 14 of UW's first 23 points in the second session, mixing a pair of 3-pointers in with eight points in the paint to lead the Badgers to a 56-48 lead.

Tucker finished with a team-high 16 points, all in the second half, and Wilkinson added 13, including eight in the second half. Chambliss added 14 and was 4 of 7 from 3-point range, despite the two near misses.

"It wasn't our post guys. It was our perimeter guys," Weber explained. "They just let the ball swing wherever they wanted."

The Illini, though, adjusted defensively, forcing Wisconsin to return to a more perimeter based offense. The Badgers promptly turned it over on three consecutive possessions after taking the eight-point lead and made just 3 of 16 shots in the final 9:31.

"We definitely defended well down the stretch, got some deflections and then did a nice job on the boards to seal the game," Weber said.

"We didn't take care of the ball and we didn't get shots," Ryan said. "If you don't get shots you can't score. Two things we talk about all the time: you have to get more shots and better shots than the other team. If you turn it over you aren't getting attempts and you can't score."

Augustine started Illinois' parade to the foul line with a pair with 4:11 left to play and Ingram added two more 32 seconds later.

The back breakers, though, may have been Augustine's consecutive emphatic dunks with 3:04 and 2:20 remaining, each coming off a ball screen. On the first, Augustine screened for Williams and rolled to the lane, receiving an entry pass for a wide open slam. One possession later, Head used a ball screen to drive to the lane and set up Augustine's second slam.

"They made some tough plays down the stretch," UW sophomore forward Alando Tucker said. "That is the sign of a good team. Two good teams out here battling." box score

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