I apologize that I haven’t been very good in updating the readers on Illinois Basketball. But today we play the Wisconsin Badgers.
Tipoff: 8 PM
Location: State Farm Center, Champaign, IL
TV/Streaming: BTN, FoxSportsGo, BTNToGo
Line: Wisconsin +5.5
The last time, these two played was on January 19th, where the Wisconsin Badgers embarrassed the Fighting Illini 75-50 on a cold, windy night in Madison. The Badgers roll into Champaign with a record of 10-15, losing the last 5 games since beating Illinois. The Illini are 12-12 on the season and 2-2 in the last 4 games since falling to the Badgers.
In the last 4 games, the Illini have shown a huge improvement. The two losses came against then 6th ranked Michigan State and 17th ranked Ohio State. In both games, the score was close until the final 10 minutes where the Spartans and the Buckeyes were able to pull away. The Illini are a young team that plays their game in quarters. In the game against Ohio State, the Illini went up 24-13 before failing to score in the final 10 minutes of the first half. In the second half, the Illini made mental mistakes, which led to frustration fouls and costly turnovers that turned the momentum and score against the Illini. Similar mistakes happened when Illinois last played the Badgers. As Wisconsin picked up the pace and scored season high of 70 points (in Big Ten play), the Illini were frustrated playing from behind and game up easy buckets while committing costly fouls.
The Badgers had 10 blocks, limited the Illini to 1-14 from the 3-point line and a season low 3 of 7 from the free throw line. The Badgers had quite the perfect game that night. The best player that night was forward Ethan Happ. Happ drew a double team every time he was on the court, which forced the Illini to stretch their 1-3-1 defense. This led to layups on backdoor cuts and open threes because the Illini were unable to recover quickly enough.
There is no way that the same Badger team will be seen tomorrow. On the road the team is 1-8, scores 20 point less and has about a 15% lower shooting percentage. The Illini on the other hand are 11-3 at home, with two of those losses coming in OT and shoot 15% better (20% better from beyond the arc) while holding opponents to about 20 points less. The Illini are coming off a game that was theirs to win in Columbus against a ranked team and don’t want to repeat the same embarrassment they felt in Madison. This will be a different squad that comes out in Champaign tonight.
Illinois win a close one. 75-69.
But then again, Wisconsin has Ethan Happ.