MADISON -- The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers came into Sunday's game having won seven straight games. At the Kohl Center, they were met by the Illinois Fighting Illini, on a four-game win streak of their own, the second-longest in the Big Ten.
The Fighting Illini (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten) put up a fight in the first half, but were unable to hang on in the second half as the Badgers (23-2, 11-1 Big Ten) won 68-49. Player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky was the centerpiece, leading all players with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
In the first half, Wisconsin able to find success early by holding Illinois scoreless for the first four minutes on their way to a 6-0 lead. Led by a balanced offensive attack, the Badgers extended the lead to 10-2 before the Illini struck back with a flurry of three three pointers to start a run of their own to take an 11-10 lead at 12:37.
"They hit three threes. That just doesn't happen," head coach Bo Ryan said. "It just so happened that it was after we made some changes. You know how I feel about three-point shooters being uncontested, so true to my nature made some changes and got back on track."
Both teams exchanged baskets multiple times, and the lead changed hands five times throughout the half and was tied on six separate occasions. The Badgers, led by Kaminsky's 17 points and seven rebounds in the half, were able to take the lead with five minutes remaining before entering the break with a 32-24 lead.
"Kaminsky was terrific," Illinois head coach John Groce said. "He scored at all three levels of the court, he made very difficult shots, he passed it well, obviously had a double-double. Watching him play a lot, I definitely think he's certainly one of the country's best players and today he played like it."
Wisconsin cruised to a 5-0 run to start the second half and brought the lead to double digits, where it stayed for the remainder of the game.
Kaminsky struggled to find the basket in the second half, going scoreless until 4:09 remaining in the game. His teammates, however, had no problem picking up the slack. After scoring only two points in the first half, sophomore point guard Bronson Koenig got hot in the second with 13 and finished the game with 15. Koenig added four assists and three rebounds, while committing no turnovers.
"If Frank can bring people out with him and clear lane space, other guys can make back cuts and get in position to score from 10 feet and in, that's OK by us," Ryan said. "Our guys really don't go out there and say, 'OK, let's make sure Frank gets his X number of points and then we'll go get ours.
"Anybody can step up at any time," Kaminsky added. "Sam had a stretch, Bronson had a stretch where he was scoring, Nigel hit some big buckets. It just goes to show that we can beat you in a lot of different ways."
Sophomore Nigel Hayes also contributed 10 points in the second half and finished with 14.
Sam Dekker reached double-figured himself, the fourth UW starter to do so. The junior forward finished with 10 points and four rebounds.
Josh Gasser was the only starter not to reach 10 points, but had a fantastic day on defense and finished with three points, four rebounds and two assists.
The Badgers will next travel to Penn State (15-11, 3-10 Big Ten) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT on BTN.