Rated as four-star recruits coming out of high school, Wisconsin recruited the duo heavily for the potential they possessed – Hughes with his leadership skills and Bohannon was his perimeter accuracy – and both of their character traits were vital to the Wisconsin offense and their teammates Wednesday.
"Trevon made some unbelievable plays, making some tough shots, and Jason Bohannon is just lights out shooting," said freshman Tim Jarmusz, who played a career-high 13 minutes. "He does such a good job stretching out the defenses and making tough shots in a tough environments."
Leading the Big Ten in steals and fresh off a 20-point performance Saturday against Minnesota, Hughes scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the first half and was an effective 6-for-11 from the floor.
Running the point guard in 25 of Wisconsin's 26 games this year, Hughes has broken the double-digit scoring barrier, but his big role against Illinois was guiding the Badgers through Illinois in-your-face pressure defense.
"He did a great job running the point guard and getting the offense set up against that pressure defense Illinois likes to run," Bohannon said. "We ran our offense and that's a credit to Pop and when his points came, he made some big shots at the end of the game."
Averaging 12 points during his last four games, Bohannon continued his hot streak from the free throw line. Going 5-for-5, Bohannon hasn't missed a free throw since the Northwestern game (33 straight makes) and his three away from breaking former Badger Wes Matthews school record for consecutive made in 1980.
Bohannon was the perfect boost off the bench for the Badgers, who shot 40 percent as a team in the game's opening 20 minutes. Bohannon was 3-for-3 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three-point arc, in the first half and finished with 15 points.
"If you think I go for one second and tell Jason to make his threes, I didn't tell him anything different about the game or how to play," UW coach Bo Ryan quipped. "He stared them down and knocked them down."
In addition to their scoring, the pair of guards were creating. Bohannon was able to pump fake on a three-pointer, getting Illinois guard Demetri McCamery to leave his feet, and draw the easy foul, making the ensuing three free throws. That was the highlight play of a stellar stretch for Bohannon, who scored 11 points in a 19-7 run that put the Badgers ahead for good.
"Bohannon really hurt us in the first half with a nine point run that was a backbreaker," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "We played them better at their place than we did here today. It was a little disappointing."
Although coming out briefly after tweaking his ankle, Hughes gutted it out through another physical 35 minutes Wednesday, consistently getting banged and bruised driving to the basket. Hughes, and the rest of the Badgers, hung onto the basketball, turning the ball over only eight times.
"Coming in here and giving up only eight turnovers, I like the way we handled the ball and made decisions because they were bringing us some pressure," Ryan said. "We handled things very well (tonight)."