No. 14 Wisconsin 70, Illinois 56
Having seen players at other schools overflow with emotion on
senior day, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan hoped his two upperclassmen
would stay steady.
So when it came time for Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson to play
their final home game, Ryan reminded them that they needed to stick
to the Badgers’ winning formula – few frills, even fewer mistakes –
to beat Illinois.
Taylor scored 16 points and Wilson helped get things going with
two early 3-pointers, then No. 14 Wisconsin’s smothering defense
did the rest in a 70-56 victory over the struggling Illini on
”I alluded to it, but I didn’t preach it, so to speak,” Ryan
said. ”I reminded them about being ourselves. I’ve just seen it go
the other way sometimes, and not for the betterment of the
Not that Ryan thinks there’s no place for emotion on senior
”The emotion comes later, after the game’s over, sitting there
looking at baby pictures,” he said.
Josh Gasser added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Badgers
(23-8, 12-6), who have won three straight going into this week’s
Big Ten tournament.
Taylor – who is tied with Kirk Penney for No. 8 on Wisconsin’s
all-time scoring list – said he isn’t an overly emotional player,
but acknowledged it was a challenge to put everything aside
”But at the end of the day, you’ve got to go out and play
basketball,” Taylor said.
Ryan downplayed an individual achievement of his own. It was his
265th victory at Wisconsin, tying Harold ”Bud” Foster for most
wins in the program’s history.
It also was a big day for Wilson, who hasn’t achieved the same
level of consistent success that Taylor has at Wisconsin but might
be finding his game at the right time. Ryan said Wilson struggled
with injuries last season but has regained his explosiveness.
”It’s real satisfying,” Wilson said. ”Better late than
The emotions are far different at Illinois, where coach Bruce
Weber’s future is uncertain after a miserable collapse in the
second half of the Big Ten season.
Illinois (17-14, 6-12) has lost its last seven road games.
Overall, the Illini have lost 11 of their last 13 since beating
Ohio State on Jan. 10.
”It slowly but surely took the spirit of our kids, to be
honest,” Weber said.
Fans in Wisconsin’s student section chanted ”NIT! NIT! NIT!”
in the closing minutes of the game.
Winning the conference tournament is now the only path for the
Illini to make the NCAAs.
With the Big Ten tournament coming up, Weber sidestepped
speculation over his job.
”I’ve coached for my job all year, so it’s no different,” he
Brandon Paul had 22 points for Illinois, which had only three
assists, a season-low.
Wisconsin came into Sunday’s game allowing an NCAA-best 51.8
points per game, and they looked every bit like the nation’s top
defensive team as they held the struggling Illini to only 18 points
in the first half.
The Badgers took away whatever fight was left in the Illini
early, hitting five of their first nine 3-point attempts as they
charged to a 22-9 lead.
The Illini got a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Paul at the end of
the half, one of the few highlights of the opening 20 minutes, but
still went into halftime trailing 31-18 – their lowest scoring
output in a half all season.
The Illini shot 6 for 24 from the field in the first half, with
seven turnovers and only one assist.
The Badgers weren’t particularly impressive on offense in the
first half, but they didn’t have to be. Taylor had a team-high
eight points at the half, going 2 for 3 from 3-point range.
Illinois made something of a surge to start the second half,
cutting the lead to nine points on two free throws by Paul with
But after the teams traded baskets, Frank Kaminsky hit a
3-pointer for Wisconsin and a pass from Paul went off the hands of
Meyers Leonard and out of bounds.
Leading 42-32 with just over 11 minutes left, Wisconsin used a
short scoring spurt to take control of the game. Wilson hit a long
jumper, Jared Berggren blocked Paul on the other end and Mike
Bruesewitz hit a jumper.
After two free throws by Leonard, Gasser hit a 3-pointer to give
the Badgers a 49-34 lead with 9 minutes left.
Paul insisted Illinois players haven’t quit on Weber.
”We talked about how we’ve got to motivate ourselves,” Paul
said. ”He hasn’t stopped coaching us, so we’ve got to keep
playing. I don’t think anybody has fully given up yet. People might
think that, but anything can happen in this (Big Ten)