The Badgers took care of business with something they're not used to achieving – efficient three-point shooting – and defeated Illinois 61-48 Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten tournament championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse.
After claiming the regular season title on Mar. 5 in front of a crazed Kohl Center crowd in Madison, this is the first time UW has won both conference championships in the same season.
"It's pretty cool," center Brian Butch said. "It's pretty hard to do, too. It doesn't happen that often. Nobody can say we shared it or anything like that, we were the best team in the Big Ten in 2008."
From an offensive standpoint, while it may sound boring, this Wisconsin team prides itself on driving to the basket, getting fouled and making their free throws – a lot of them.
In fact, UW made 26 of a season-high-tying 37 free throw attempts in Saturday's comeback win over Michigan State that earned them a berth in the finals.
But against the Fighting Illini, the Badgers got just two foul shots – point guard Trevon Hughes made both after getting banged on a shot by UI's Chester Frazier. UW's previous low was five attempts, at Indiana on Feb. 13.
So Wisconsin's bread-and-butter offensive strategy was nonexistent. Good thing the Badgers shot an abnormally high percentage from behind the arc, hitting 9 of 18 three-point attempts.
The Badgers came into Sunday's game shooting 35 percent from downtown. In tournament games against Michigan and Michigan State, they also had been 8-for-28.
Marcus Landry, the Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player, got things started with a trey six minutes in. He also had the first bucket of the second half: a three-pointer, of course.
"We just kept moving, that's one thing we stressed at halftime," Landry said. "Things started to open up, shots started to fall and people started to get open shots."
Michael Flowers, the Badgers' other representative on the all-tournament team, led the Badgers with three three-pointers, getting all nine of his points behind the arc.
"They know that our offense is a hard offense to guard, so they tried to keep us away from the free-throw line," Flowers said. "But there's other facets to the game, and we were able to produce out there."
Butch led the Badgers with 12 points, and was 2-for-4 on three-pointers. Jason Bohannon and Tim Jarmusz also got into the act with a trey.
"We were just moving the ball around, playing smart basketball and taking good shots," Bohannon said. "If we get the open shot, we try and hit it. That's a big confidence-builder, especially going into games like today where it meant a lot."
Hughes went down in a great deal of pain with a left ankle injury during the second half against Michigan State on Saturday, but came back to play 27 minutes and score eight points – including, of course, UW's only two freebies of the afternoon.
"He's a leader on this team," Flowers said. "He's just a sophomore, that's the scary part … he's not 100 percent, he's probably not even 80 percent, but he came and played his heart out."
There were only a few hundred Wisconsin fans who stayed for the post-game trophy presentation and net-cutting ceremony, but the players still enjoyed themselves, leading the crowd in UW's "Varsity" song while grinning from ear to ear with another championship in tow.
"It's a great accomplishment for us," Bohannon said. "To play on this team right now, we're doing a lot of special things right now."