Losers of five of their last six, the Wisconsin Badgers haven't been in as desperate need of a win as they are Tuesday night in some time. After Saturday's loss to Ohio State and with Michigan State coming to Madison this weekend, Wisconsin's trip to Illinois became even more important.
Puzzling rotations by Bo Ryan and an abnormally high number of turnovers muddled the first half, though the Badgers nevertheless entered the break with a 36-30 lead. Freshman Nigel Hayes has once again been on point, leading all scorers with 10 points on 3-of-3 shooting and a 4-of-6 mark from the free throw line. Ben Brust has eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, while Sam Dekker, after scoring just four points vs. Ohio State, already has seven on 2-of-5 shooting.
The ugliness stems from Wisconsin's six turnovers -- the Badgers average 8.2 per game, tied for fewest in the country. They're spread evenly throughout -- Brust and Hayes have two each, while Frank Kaminsky and Dekker each have one. As for the rotations, it continues to puzzle most Badgers fans how Bo Ryan continues his apparent limitation of Hayes and freshman point guard Bronson Koenig, who also enjoyed a solid first half with five points on 2-of-2 shooting and one free throw. He entered with Hayes at 14:51 with the Badgers trailing, 5-4, and by 11:31, the Badgers had mounted a 14-11 lead.
Ryan continues to juggle Koenig and Hayes with Traevon Jackson and Dekker. Jackson in particular has faced widespread criticism for his recent play, though his first half isn't terrible -- six points on 1-of-3 shooting, 4-of-5 free-throw shooting and four rebounds.
Wisconsin closed the half on a 12-6 run thanks to five points apiece from Hayes and Dekker.
Points per possession: UW 1.13, Illinois 0.91. Badgers shoot 47.8 percent, Illini 44.0 percent— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) February 5, 2014
UW leads 15-4 in bench scoring. Illinois leads 18-8 in points in the paint.— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) February 5, 2014
#Badgers started game 0-4 from 3 and 2-8 overall. After that, hit 4 of 7 threes and 9 of 15 shots overall...10-13 on FT— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) February 5, 2014
Egwu cannot handle #Badgers Hayes anywhere. Anywhere.— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) February 5, 2014
The baseline angle of that Hayes move is so telling. Egwu checking with left hand, Hayes rips through L to R and has automatic contact.— Parker Gabriel (@pgabriel15) February 5, 2014