The Badgers know that in order to have the success and opportunities they want offensively, they need to hit Wilkinson early and often and letting him outwork opponents.
The Illini knew this too. And that's exactly why they took Wilkinson away from the Badgers.
The Illini defense denied Wilkinson the ball the entire game and limited him to only four shots attempts from the field in Wisconsin's 70-59 loss. He made all four for eight points.
Simply put, Wilkinson was a non-factor thanks to Illinois' great game plan and even better execution.
"Every scouting report in the country would say this is what you do to post players: Get them to catch it out of their comfort zone… and then do it," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "We all have the same scouting reports. It is the guys between the lines that get it done. He had a tough time getting good looks inside."
"We always tell the guys, if there is a good player, play defense before it gets there. It makes it much easier on you," Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. "We just never let him get in a rhythm."
Few touches and aggressive help defense will do that, but the Badgers never seemed to work through the challenge.
Wilkinson never really showed aggressiveness going for the ball. His teammates did not adjust to the defense and find a way for Wilkinson to get his touches.
"If they are going to keep denying, you just have to keep trying to get it in," Wilkinson said. "If you can't, you have to move it and get it in somewhere else. Sometimes we had some good looks off of that, where they helped and we kicked it out. We had some open looks, but they just didn't go down. They did a good job working both the passers and the guys posting up."
One of those passers was sophomore Kammron Taylor, who for the second time this season struggled against Illinois' backcourt.
Despite an early 3-point basket, which gave the Badgers a 5-4 lead, Taylor never really got his shots to fall and ultimately shot himself out of the game, sinking only 2 of 8 shots for seven points.
He also struggled running the offense, with four turnovers and just one assist against a pesky Illini defense.
"I'm going to give credit to Illinois," Taylor said. "They did a good job getting us out of our game and our game is to go inside. We didn't give Mike Wilkinson the ball enough at all in the second half. I think the guards, we have to take some of the blame for that. We didn't do a good job of executing."
After junior Ray Nixon hit a 3-pointer to bring Wisconsin within 54-49, Taylor attempted to drive to the basket against Brown, but lost the ball out of bounds. Brown then hit a 3 on Illinois' next possession.
"It's definitely frustrating," Taylor said. "We were down five and I end up turning the ball over and they come down and hit a 3. That's just uncalled for, especially when you're playing the No. 1 team in the country. You have to take care of the ball. They got us rushing into our offense and I just didn't execute down the stretch."
After Taylor and Wilkinson carried Wisconsin to a home win over Iowa Wednesday with a combined 46 points, the two were nowhere to be found Saturday.