Fundamentally Superior

Behind a game-high 22 points, six steals and five assists from sophomore point guard Trevon Hughes, Wisconsin's fundamentals are too much for the visitors, as the Badgers beat Illinois for the first time in Madison since 2004.

MADISON – Seniors come and go throughout the Wisconsin program, but UW coach Bo Ryan's teams always register success.

There is not something special in the water or a special mystique flying in the rafters of the Kohl Center that propels Wisconsin to victory after victory.

No, the secret to Ryan success, according to him, is day after day and practice after practice, the Badgers consistently and tirelessly work on their fundamentals.

"I keep telling you (media) guys and you never believe me that it's coaching," Ryan joked earlier. "Our players know how important fundamentals are to the success of the team."

Showing little selfishness with the basketball, the Badgers were able to build and sustain a lead with simple ball movement, leading to a multitude of wide-open layups and uncontested perimeter jump shots. The end result was 70-60 victory over the reeling Fighting Illini, breaking a two-game home losing streak against the visitors.

Not only were their passes crisp, but the ability for Wisconsin (13-2, 3-0 Big Ten) to be active in the post and get looks into the paint was a big factor in the team's seventh straight win. Although the stats reflect only a plus four edge in the post, the consistent pounding of the ball into the post allowed for the Badgers to find the open man possession after possession.

"The more that we concentrate on getting the ball inside, the more other teams have to defend us inside and that creates more open shots for our guys," said senior Brian Butch, who scored 16 points Thursday night. "That's the nice thing about this team. We have a lot of options and that combination makes us pretty tough."

But being fundamentally sound only takes one so far, as the Badgers had to take advantage of the uncontested looks Illinois (8-8, 0-3) was giving them.

After shooting just 2-for-7 from three-point range in the first half and Illinois cutting the lead from 10 to only three with just over eight minutes left in the contest, the Badger back court got the message and, for the time being, found the shooting touch.

Wide open in front of the Badger bench, sophomore Jason Bohannon, who had missed six of his last seven three attempts, drained the bucket to give the Badgers some breathing room. Followed by a steal by Hughes on the defensive end, Trevon wasted no time in completing the play by knocking down a three of his own from the top of the key.

Suddenly, a slim 44-41 lead swelled to a comfortable nine-point working margin and Illinois never threatened again. The Badgers made five three pointers in the final 20 minutes, but none were as critical as the sequence started by Bohannon.

"They went three straight times on ball screens and each time, they picked us apart," Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. "That (sequence) was probably the back breaker for our team."

Hampered by a nasty ankle sprain only three games prior, sophomore Trevon Hughes had his best game in a Wisconsin uniform. Playing 36 minutes, Hughes scored 22 points (three short of his career high) on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting and six steals.

But the number Ryan was pleased above all others was Hughes' assist-to-turnover margin. The point guard tied a career-high with five assists (all coming in the second half) while committing only two turnovers.

"It never matters at what point and you don't get extra points if it's pretty," Ryan said. "Trevon made some really good passes. He found people and that's what makes good things happen."

With the two winningest programs in the Big Ten since the start of the 2001 season matching up, a one-sided victory isn't the norm, especially with some of the battles these two programs have had over the past four years.

But with the fundamentally sound Badgers clicking on all cylinders and Illinois losing its fourth straight game for the first time in the Bruce Weber era, the power in the Big Ten, in Weber's eyes has shifted towards Madison because of the system Ryan has put in place.

"Bo gets them to believe in the system, believe in their roles, accept and take pride in their roles and execute their roles," Weber said. "They make you earn everything. That is what makes them successful."

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