Wisconsin (10–10, 3–4 Big Ten) pushed its winning streak against Illinois (10–10, 0–7) to 12 games and appeared to take out its frustration from the Purdue loss earlier this week on the Illini.
Badger head coach Greg Gard was obviously pleased with the way his teamed performed on Friday night.
“It’s good to get back home, play better, take care of the ball, defend better, make shots and all those things that go into having success,” Gard said. “We had a lot of guys that stepped up and contributed.”
For the game, Wisconsin boasted a Big Ten season-high field goal percentage of 53.1 percent (26 of 49).
Despite only playing eight minutes in the first half and 23 minutes total, true freshman guard Brad Davison finished with a game-high 18 points.
More than half of those points came from the charity stripe, where Davison finished a perfect 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl contributed 16 points on 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc and has now scored in double-figures in five of the last six games.
Adding another double-double to his résumé this year, redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ seemed as if he played every position on the floor. He finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and also led the Badgers with five assists.
With Davison in foul trouble, Happ was in charge of taking the ball up the court against Illinois’s press. He felt comfortable in the position, having played point guard up until his sophomore year in high school.
“When it’s a big guarding me I feel confident taking it up and handling the pressure that way,” Happ said. “It’s about having poise and not getting sped up by their defense.”
Although Happ had a great night individually, he was more pleased with how his team played as a whole.
“The biggest thing is that we played as a unit tonight,” Happ said. “It wasn’t one guy trying to do it all himself. It was the one more pass and that’s how we need to play.”
Junior forward Khalil Iverson also made his presence felt and was the fourth Badger to finish in double-figures with 13 points (6-of-8 from the field) with three rebounds.
Khalil Iverson— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) January 20, 2018
└ Gameday Moods
└ BEAST MODE pic.twitter.com/s9CFpjwlYW
With some hot shooting in the first half, Wisconsin built a 43–32 halftime lead. UW shot 66.7 percent (16 of 24) from the field in those 20 minutes, including hitting on four of six three-point attempts.
Both teams went back and forth in the first 10 minutes, but that did not last long. The Badgers went on a 18–6 run that lasted from the 9:02 mark to the 3:01 mark and put them ahead by as much as 16 in the first half.
Surprisingly, this run came after Davison was sidelined with two early fouls with 10:38 remaining until halftime.
With the true freshman out for most of the first half, Pritzl stepped up for the Badgers, playing all 20 minutes and scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
Illinois has been known for its defense this year despite its poor record, forcing 17 or more turnovers in 11 games. The Badgers flipped the script on Friday, forcing Brad Underwood’s squad to commit 14 turnovers while only being guilty of 12.
This after UW coughed up the ball 20 times against Purdue on Tuesday.
“Twelve is still too many,” Gard said. “But I thought given the way they pressure, that there was going to be some opportunities for us to put pressure on the rim.”
Overall, the Badgers’ offense was very efficient. Illinois pressed most of the night and switched in and out of a zone defense throughout the game.
However, the Badgers were the ones who performed on the defensive side of the ball.
“Defensively, they were a well-oiled machine tonight,” Underwood said. “Give them credit, I haven’t been a part of too many shellackings like this but they were terrific tonight.”
The Badgers held the Illini to a season-low 50 points and recorded 10 blocks. True freshman forward Nate Reuvers accounted for five blocks in just 16 minutes of play.
“He’s got length, he’s quick off the floor, he covers a lot of ground and he’s just a pup,” Gard said. “We haven’t had a rim protector like that in a while and he’s just beginning. He’s got a lot of things to get better at, but his instincts are terrific and his work ethic is really good.”
Redshirt junior forward Leron Black led Illinois with 16 points (7-of-9 from the field) while true freshman guard Trent Frazier added 11 (5-of-14). They were the only two players for the Illini to reach double-figures, as the team only shot 40.4 percent from the field (23 of 57).
This was a much-needed win for the Badgers as they hope to carry this momentum into Tuesday's game at Iowa (6 p.m. CT, ESPN2).