Champaign, Illinois-State Farm Center
Wisconsin Badgers 63 Illinois Fighting Illini 55 F
Sunday night seemed like a microcosm of the season to this point for the Fighting Illini. That could be primarily summed up by injuries, poor offensive play, no rebounding, and more injuries.
Illinois got off to a pretty good start against the bigger and more experienced Wisconsin Badgers. Going into the half, the Badgers led 33-28.
The pace slowed down considerably in the second half and the Illini just couldn’t hit enough shots and couldn’t drum up enough offensive production from their supporting cast to notch a win in this game. The duo of Bronson Koening and Nigel Hayes gave the Illini matchup problems all night and the Illini couldn’t slow down the Wisconsin big man most of the night. Hayes finished with 17pts and contributed in many ways that don’t show up in the box score. Illinois did cut the the deficit to 5 points with about a minute left in regulation, when Wisconsin iced the game with their free throw shooting to extend the winning margin to 8 points.
To make matters even worse, Illinois redshirt freshman forward Michael Finke left the game in the second half with a left knee injury after colliding with Wisconsin big man Nigel Hayes. The injury looked pretty bad at first and Finke was seen with an ice wrap and a noticeable limp after the game. In a season that has been absolutely decimated by injuries, the injury bug just continues to bite the Illini. Finke has been an unexpected bright spot in this otherwise dark, dark season.
Illinois head coach John Groce continues to struggle against Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the only Big Ten school that Groce has yet to beat in his four year tenure at Illinois (0-6 against the Badgers). Groce also falls to 26-37 in Big Ten play as the coach at Illinois. The chatter about his job and the temperature of his seat continue to climb by the day.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard notched his first victory over Illinois after being named the interim head coach after Bo Ryan retired in mid-December.
Illinois was led by Malcolm Hill (22pts) and Kendrick Nunn (15pts) but didn’t get enough scoring from everyone else.
Next up, Illinois (10-12, 2-7 in B10) will travel out east to face Rutgers on Wednesday, February 3rd and Wisconsin (13-9, 5-4 in B10) will welcome in the Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday, February 4th.
(Picture via Madison.com)
University of Illinois ’16