Badgers fail to cash in from the line

Wisconsin makes just 5 of 12 free throws in 75-65 loss

MADISON – It is not often that the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team takes fewer free throws than its opponent.

In only one other conference game this season have the Badgers allowed their opponent to attempt 20 or more free throws in a game. The other one was at Indiana.

Tuesday's result, the same as Jan. 8, was a loss.

That is probably why a disgusted Bo Ryan had one short sentence after the game in reply to a question on the foul shooting disparity between the Badgers and visiting Illinois.

"Five for 12 for us, 17 of 20 for them," Ryan said.

The statistic says it all.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber had a little more to say about the foul disparity, however, and Wisconsin inability to connect from the charity stripe.

"It was huge," Weber said. "They struggled from the line in the first half. They were great from [3-point range] and struggled from the line. If they would have hit their free throws in the first half, it would have been a different ball game no doubt."

While holding the Illini scoreless for the final 4:26 of the first half, the Badgers in that same span had opportunities to take the lead with shots from the free throw but were unable to capitalize.

Senior Zach Morley missed two attempts with UW trailing 35-28 and both sophomore Alando Tucker and senior Clayton Hanson missed front ends of one-and-ones with the Badgers down just 35-33.

"I thought a key stretch in the game though was right the end of the first half," Weber said. "With a 7-point lead, we don't score the last four minutes."

As a group the Badgers were a dismal 4-of-10 from the line in the first half. In a half in which the Badgers were red-hot from 3-point range (7 of 13), they could not buy a basket from the free throw line.

In fact, in the first half alone, the Badgers connected on more 3-point shots than number of free throws they hit the entire game.

On the flip side, Illinois was lights out from the line when given the opportunity. After hitting 3 of 4 in the first half, the Illini attacked Wisconsin and got them into foul trouble earlier than normal for a Badgers squad.

With 8:48 remaining in the game, the Illini drew UW's seventh team foul and from then on out, the opportunities were plentiful.

No matter whom the Badgers put at the line, Illinois connected—hitting 12 of 14 in the second half, including 10 of 12 in final 4:11.

For Wisconsin, they were able to get to the line only twice in the second half and it came during their anemic stretch to end the game. Sophomore Kamm Taylor hit 1 of 2 attempts with 1:07 remaining to pull UW within six, but the margin would only grow from that point.

"Michigan State, that game, they missed some free throws down the stretch," said Tucker, alluding to the Badgers come-from-behind win in their last home game. "Illinois made free throws. You can't expect teams to miss free throws all the time and rely on that to try and come back."

Badgers let 3s fly

After a torrid start to the game from beyond the arc, even the Badgers 3-point shots would not fall down the stretch.

Wisconsin, however, hit 7-of-13 3-pointers in the first half, including 3 of 3 from Sharif Chambliss. It was Wisconsin's long range shooting which really kept them in the game in the first half.

With five made 3-pointers from three different players in a 5:35 second span, the Badgers were able to remain competitive. Ray Nixon's back-to-back triples at 14:13 and 13:21 in the first half gave Wisconsin a 15-14 lead. Chambliss' 3 two minutes later drew UW within 21-18 with 11:49 left in the half. His triple with 2:02 left before halftime closed Illinois' advantage to 35-33.

However, in the second half, Wisconsin managed to hit only 3 of 11 from downtown and all three makes came in the first 10 minutes of the half. The last was a 3 from Tucker at the 12:44 mark, giving the Badgers their largest lead of the game.

Nixon strong off the bench

Junior forward Ray Nixon was one of the Badgers' hottest shooters from beyond the arc Tuesday night. He made 3 of 6 triples, including 3 of 5 in the first half.

Nixon played 18 minutes, tied a career high with nine points and dished out three assists.

While all nine of his points were from 3s and in the first half, Nixon was a huge spark for Wisconsin and the first Badger sub off the bench on the night.

"He gave a lot of energy," Tucker said. "You look for guys like Ray and Mike Flowers and Kam [Taylor and the guys who have the ability to step up, we look for them to step up in games like this. He's a great player, a great shooter."

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