Madison, Wisconsin-Kohl Center
Wisconsin Badgers 69 Illinois Fighting Illini 60 F
If the game would have only lasted 28 minutes, the Fighting Illini would have walked out of Madison with a victory. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case on Sunday evening at the Kohl Center.
Illinois led by 13 points with 12 minutes to go, and actually had a 79% chance at winning the game at that point in time, according to KenPom projections. It was one of those games where the Illini had a big lead and as a fan, you were just waiting for them to go cold and for the Big Red of Wisconsin to go on a run. And that is exactly what transpired.
During a certain 7 minute stretch in the second half, the Illini didn’t make a field goal. The officials weren’t giving the Illini any help with the whistles either. It seems like every team gets a certain “home court advantage” with the zebras but it has to be times five when teams visit the Kohl Center. Illinois was whistled for 26 personal fouls (to Wisconsin’s 12) and only shot 10 free throws (to Wisconsin’s 33!). You can’t really blame the refs when you cannot score in seven minutes of play, but the foul discrepancy speaks for itself.
Wisconsin was led by big man Ethan Happ (20pts and 12 rebs), who was raised about 60 miles from Champaign and grew up an Illini fan but ultimately ended up choosing the Badgers after Illinois went through a coaching change. Illinois was led by forward turned point guard Malcolm Hill (20pts and 7rebs).
In winning this matchup, Wisconsin has kept their NCAA tournament aspirations alive and are making a great case for “interim” head coach Greg Gard to be promoted to the full-time position. Wisconsin faces a tough B10 schedule upcoming and can only afford another loss or two to sneak into the tournament.
Illinois continues to fade and struggle mightily. What used to be a university that could be proud of their basketball program and basketball tradition is quickly becoming unrestful. With Illinois having named a new athletic director last week, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of John Groce. If that pressure wasn’t high enough already, Illinois sophomore forward Leron Black was arrested late Friday/early Saturday for pulling a knife on a bouncer at an on-campus nightclub. I am not sure how the legal process will play out with Black, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Leron Black was finished at the University of Illinois.
Next up, Illinois (12-15, 4-10 in B10) will welcome in the Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday, February 25th and Wisconsin (17-10, 9-5 in B10) will travel to Iowa City and play the #4 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday, February 24th.
(Picture via Mary Langenfeld-USA Today Sports)
University of Illinois ’16