Although Wisconsin led the entire game, Illinois mounted a comeback late, hitting three 3-pointers in the last three minutes. Illinois got as close as 62-58 with 38 seconds left but Wisconsin hit six of eight free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
"(Free throws) is something we have been struggling with," said senior guard Ashley Josephson, who finished with 12 points and made 4 of 4 free throw attempts. "We shoot millions of them in practice but tonight we stepped up to the line with confidence. I knocked them down."
A slow start crippled the Illini from the beginning. Wisconsin opened the game with a 17-4 run while holding the Illini to 13 percent shooting midway through the first half. Illinois went eight minutes without scoring before Erin Wigley's bucket made it 17-6 with 8:17 left in the first half. UW led 29-20 at halftime.
"It was a complete game for us," UW coach Lisa Stone said. "We made our free throws down the stretch and we played great defense. We held a team that just drilled their 3s at our place earlier this year. We got the things done. We didn't panic. It feels good and hopefully we can break open."
Sophomore forward Danielle Ward led the Badgers (9-15 overall, 3-9 Big Ten) with 19 points, while sophomore guard Jolene Anderson contributed 11 points — all of which came in the second half — and eight rebounds. Anderson and point guard Janese Banks each had four assists and two steals.
Illini freshman guard Lori Bjork, who scored a then-career best 24 points at Wisconsin, put down a game-high 27 points on 8 of 14 shooting. Wigley added 17 points in the loss. The rest of the Illini (12-11, 4-8), however, scored just 17 points on abysmal 7-for-27 shooting (26 percent).
Since the Illini flat-out dominated Wisconsin, 84-54, on Jan. 15, they have limped down the stretch, losing seven straight games.
The Badgers shot 48 percent from the field, their second-best mark of the season, out-rebounded Illinois 37-35 and out-scored Illinois 36-12 in the paint. The Illini shot 37 percent in the game and 25 percent (7 of 28) in the first half.