Illinois vs. Wisconsin recap: First-half surge carries Badgers to 95-70 win

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Badgers are now 16-0 after their largest-ever win over a top-25 opponent.

MADISON -- No team in Wisconsin men's basketball history -- modern era or otherwise -- had started a season with 16-straight wins until Wednesday night.

The win that moved the 2013-14 squad into rarified air became anticlimactic fast.

No. 4 Wisconsin (16-0 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) used a 20-0 first-half run and 50 first-half points to race past No. 23 Illinois (13-3, 2-1) by a final tally of 95-70.

Bo Ryan's 13th UW team had been tied with the 1912-13 and 1913-14 teams for the best start in school history.

"You take pride in what you've done to this point," sophomore forward Sam Dekker (17 points, 6-of-8 FG, 6 rebounds) said. "You can't really ignore it as a player just because you try to go out and win every game. So far we have. It also means we have a lot of expectations to uphold. We're nowhere near content with where we are now and now we have an even bigger target on our backs."

Wisconsin again used its balance in personnel and ability to score in multiple ways, putting on an offensive clinic against an overmatched Illinois defense. UW finished with five players in double figures, the 11th time this year the Badgers have finished with at least four reaching that mark.

Senior guard Ben Brust led UW with 18 points. Along with Dekker's 17, Frank Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson added 15 points each and Nigel Hayes chipped in 11.

Wisconsin got to the basket off the dribble. It got good back-to-the-basket play, particularly from Dekker and Kaminsky. It got mid-range jumpers from Nigel Hayes. It had a dominant edge over Illinois at the free throw line (23-of-33 compared to 15-of-19). UW hit 56.1 percent from the floor (32-of-57) and held Illinois to just 31.6 percent (25-of-79).

"A monster," Illinois head coach said when asked to describe what it's like to defend all of UW's options. "We've played against some really good offensive teams. Oregon's good, Missouri's good, I thought Indiana was good offensively. I thought they were the best offensive team we've had to defend all year, to this juncture."

As the Badgers turned in efficient possession after efficient possession during the first-half run, Illinois missed 13 consecutive field goal attempts and turned the ball over three times. All told, the Illini went 6:20 without a field goal. The Illini missed 24 of their first 28 shots and trailed by no fewer than 17 points from the 10:04 mark of the first half onward.

"Points per possession help," UW head coach Bo Ryan said of his team's offensive production. "When you're almost 1.4 in the first half, you're going to put up numbers."

While the Badgers got scoring from all over their roster, the Illini -- who entered the contest with all five starters averaging 7.9 points per game or better -- really only got reliable offense from Rayvonte Rice (19 points, 7-of-21 FG) and Joseph Bertrand (18 points, 7-of-10 FG). Six minutes into the second half, before both teams started substituting liberally late in the game, Rice and Bertrand had 35 of Illinois' 40 points.

The 95 points for Wisconsin is the highest scoring output in regulation in a conference game since beating Northwestern 97-73 during the 1994-'95 campaign.

"I don't want to take anything away from the last two years because they were both really good teams," Jackson said. "It's just different personnel, different styles that fit the personnel. This year we just put more of an emphasis on being aggressive early [in the shot clock]. When you have a group that is as talented as this one, one through five, and then three or four guys off the bench that are good, you have to take advantage of what the defense gives you."

The 25-point win was the largest margin of victory over a top-25 opponent in program history.

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