He'll have one more chance to do it in the national tournament, given that he and his teammates can shake off a performance they can't forget soon enough.
Shooting 29 percent overall and scoring just 30 points in the game's first 33 minutes, No.13 Wisconsin late surge – scoring 24 points in 6 minutes, 45 seconds – was not enough to extend its stay in the Big Ten Tournament, falling to Illinois the quarterfinals, 58-54, Friday afternoon in Conseco Fieldhouse.
Wisconsin (23-3) set a new season low in field goal percentage, saw its senior backcourt shoot 5-of-26 (19 percent) from the floor and continued its feast or famine in the conference tournament.
In nine trips under Head Coach Bo Ryan, the Badgers have either lost in their first game of advanced to the championship game.
"It's definitely disappointing because we obviously wanted to win this tournament," said junior Jon Leuer (14 points, 7 rebounds). "We need to take it as a learning experience, move on and hopefully learn and grow and get better from.
"It's always been one of our goals. Anytime we step on the court, we're looking to win."
But if Wisconsin wanted to extend its four game winning streak and get a repeat of Sunday's 15-point victory over Illinois (19-13) in Champaign, it received a rude awakening when the Illini jumped up eight in the six minutes.
"We had some good momentum coming in, but we just didn't come ready to play," said senior Jason Bohannon (5 points on 1-of-10 shooting. "They jumped us right on the bat."
Things could not have been worse for Hughes. The senior suffered a bruised left thigh early in the game; an injury that evidentally plagued with his shot. Hughes missed multiple lay-ups, airballed a three-pointer and drew the sideline wrath of Ryan after starting the game 0-of-11 from the floor.
"I needed something to get the confidence going," Hughes said. "I had no lift."
The Badgers shot only 18.2 percent for the first half, but trailed by just nine at halftime thanks to Leuer's 11 points canceling out junior Demetri McCamey's 10 points. Looking back, it could be argued that it was a better half of basketball for UW, as the next 20 minutes were full of failed opportunities for the Badgers to take control. But with Wisconsin shooting 15.4 percent from the field, no luck could be had.
The Badgers missed their first six shots, allowing Illinois to build its second-half lead to 14, and Hughes was benched for a stretch when his shooting slump reached 0-of-10.
"It just came down to making shots," said Leuer. "We just weren't able to convert and make them pay offensively. It just came down to finishing around the rim and making threes, and that just didn't happen."
When the deficit reached 16 points, the Badgers started to show another small sign of life. Jordan Taylor and Bohannon each sank a three-pointer and Leuer made his only bucket of the second half, cutting the lead to 46-38 with 3:19 left.
Hughes could have been the match to ignite the powder keg, registering a steal on Richardson to give UW a chance to cut the lead to five, but was called for a carry on the ensuing possession. That comeback was dashed a short time later when McCamey drilled a fade-away three-pointer late in the shot clock to push the lead back to double digits.
For the second straight game, the Badgers held McCamey in check (6-of-15, 13 points), but could not contest the uncontestable.
"We kept fighting and clawing, they kept pulling away and we kept fighting back," Hughes said. "Then they would pull away again. We try to make that comeback and we don't get anything out of it, it's very discouraging."
The Badgers made one final push after McCamey's dagger and it was started by the unlikeliest of sources.
Making his first field goal (a three-pointer) with the 1:44 of the second half, Hughes scored 12 points (all from the perimeter) in 71 seconds, bringing UW with 56-54 - the closest the Badgers had been since Illinois scored the opening bucket.
"I think we always feel like we have a chance even when we're down 16 with seven minutes or whatever, but Trevon hit some big shots and obviously the crowd, got our bench behind us, got some energy and we just couldn't pull it out at the end," sophomore Jordan Taylor said (8 points). "I think we waited too long to have that sense of urgency."
But when Hughes committed his fifth foul on the ensuing inbounds play, putting the Badgers' only late-game playmaker on the bench with 26 seconds left, Wisconsin's other senior couldn't deliver.
After Jeff Jordan, with his father watching from a suite, went 1-of-2 from the line, Bohannon's chance to tie it from the right wing went off the front iron and into the hands of Mike Davis, ending UW's hopes of a miracle comeback.
"We got good looks, but it was one of those days," Bohannon said.
Wisconsin did its part by eliminating the mental mistakes, committing just five turnovers, but did little damage from the free throw line. Wisconsin finished the game 8-of-14 from the line (3-of-4 in the second half), twice missing the front end of the bonus in the first half.
"We didn't get to the line enough," Ryan admitted, as he was denied a chance to win his 600th game. "And then defensively, some of those same shots that were hit today were not hit Sunday. But there's a lot of coaches saying that in their post-game conferences right now. You've got to get it done when the clock is moving. And we didn't, and we paid for it collectively."
After out rebounding Illinois 40-30 and out scoring the Illini in the paint 24-8, the Badgers were out rebounded 40-33, only scored six points in the paint because of multiple missed layups and scored just 13 points off 17 Illinois turnovers.
"When you're 1- for-10 within five feet of the rim, you can try to explain it," said Ryan. "We can try, we just didn't finish."
Since Leuer has returned to the starting lineup, Wisconsin has been 3-0, out scoring opponents by an average of 24.7 points per game and scoring 26 points per game in the paint. The Badgers now have to regain that killer instinct as they wait the announcement of their next opponent Sunday evening.
"We didn't play well throughout the whole 40 minutes, but we're pretty confident that we can," Hughes said. "We started clicking, but then it was too late.
"I am not going to hang my head. I know I played bad, but we'll get back tomorrow and try to get everything clicking … We fell short today, but I am pretty sure we can regain that because that's the kind of team we are. We are going to fight to the end."