Wisconsin thumps No. 12 Illinois
Madison, WI – Jared Berggren recorded a double-double with 15 points and a season-high 12 rebounds, as Wisconsin outplayed and overwhelmed 12th-ranked Illinois, 74-51, at the Kohl Center.
Traevon Jackson contributed a career-high 14 points and freshman Sam Dekker added 13 points thanks to a trifecta of triples for the Badgers (12-4, 3-0 Big Ten), who have won six straight following a Dec. 8 loss at Marquette.
"I think it was being in the right spot at the right time," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "We've had that happen to us sometimes and it really doesn't look like we're not working, so I can't say they weren't. That's why basketball, to be consistent through a season, to be consistent throughout a decade, to be consistent in this game, you just got to know that there are some times that things are just not going to work out."
Illinois (14-4, 1-3) was led by D.J. Richardson, who tied a season high with 16 points. The Illini have dropped four of their last six games and nine straight Big Ten road games dating back to last season.
From the start, Illinois looked sluggish, failing to score a point until almost seven minutes of game time elapsed on a Brandon Paul free throw. The Illini trailed by as many as 26, at 37-11, with just over two minutes remaining until halftime on a Jackson shot from long distance.
Bertrand hit a layup and the Badgers took a 39-19 advantage to the break.
Wisconsin made six 3-pointers in the first half, while Illinois converted just 1-of-8 from 3-point range. The Illini also struggled from the field, shooting a mere 6-of-23.
The Badgers opened up the second half in convincing fashion with back-to-back dunks by Ryan Evans and Berggren, plus a Dekker 3-pointer which extended the lead to 46-19. A Tracy Abrams jumper finally put the Illini back on the board just over four minutes in.
Illinois had a short stretch in which it outscored Wisconsin 10-0 to make the score 54-36 with 12:26 remaining, however, two free throws with a Dekker steal and slam brought the hosts' lead up over 20 once more and Wisconsin rolled to the victory.
"I thought that they dominated every facet of the game especially in the first half," Illinois coach John Groce said. "The thing that was the most disappointing to me was that their competitive spirit was better than ours to start the game. That is unacceptable; it's not what we're about. Today we didn't have it."
Wisconsin has won five of the last six meetings at the Kohl Center ... The Badgers' sixth straight victory overall matches the school's longest winning stretch from last season ... Ryan's squad is 10-1 at home and 3-0 in conference play for first time since the 2008-09 campaign ... Groce is still one win away from 100 in career victories as a head coach ... Paul, who finished with eight points, failed to lead the Illini in scoring for just the fourth time this season ... Richardson has made a 3- pointer in all 18 games this season ... Illinois also lost nine straight conference road games from 1974-76.