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Wisconsin basketball: Illinois recap

The Badgers lose to the Illini for the first time in 16 games.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of four straight wins, two of which happened on the road, the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team (9-6 overall, 2-2 B1G) was back in action Wednesday night against the Illinois Fighting Illini (11-5 overall, 3-2 B1G).

While the Badgers had been hot as of late as a team, sophomore reserve Alan Griffin of Illinois was on a roll of his own, having scored 16 or more points over the past three games after averaging only two points last season.

On Wednesday, Griffin was able to get his fourth consecutive game in double-figures as the Fighting Illini came into Madison and stole a victory.

In the early moments of the game the Badgers got off to a quick lead thanks to a couple of early buckets by Kobe King. The Illini responded to take a lead of their own amidst a bombardment of foul calls on both sides.

The two squads would go on to exchange scores, with Wisconsin narrowly leading with 6:27 left to play in the first half thanks to some strong free throw shooting to capitalize on the bonus.

The Badgers would continue to go inside and take a six point lead into the half led by Micah Potter and Kobe King. Potter particularly was big as Nate Reuvers dealt with foul trouble.

To begin the second half, Kobe King took the Wisconsin offense into his own hands, scoring the first eight points of the half for the Badgers as he went to work in the paint. After he went to the bench to catch a breather, his replacement Brevin Pritzl came in and picked up the slack. The senior hit a big three-pointer and converted a pair of free-throws to give the Badgers a five point lead with 11:30 to play in the game.

Illinois would turn around and go on a run of their own thanks to some great shooting and less than impressive defense by the Badgers. At the 7:40 mark, the lead was trimmed to 57-54.

Down the stretch Wisconsin would continue to go inside and convert from the free-throw line, but Illinois would not relent. Illinois would get hot and convert when they needed to down the stretch. A clutch three-pointer by sensational sophomore Ayo Dosunmu helped Illinois escape the Kohl Center with a win, as Wisconsin struggled down the stretch to score.

Notable stat lines:

  • Micah Potter —> 13 points (2-of-6 from the floor), nine rebounds, three blocks
  • Kobe King —> 21 points (10-of-13 from the floor), four rebounds, one block
  • Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois) —> 18 points (7-of-15 from the floor), five rebounds, six assists

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Success inside...early

Wisconsin did a nice job of attacking inside against Illinois. The Badgers endeavors into the paint led to foul trouble for both Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili for Illinois. Wisconsin shot a hearty 50% from the field in the first half, and converted nicely at the free throw line hitting all eight of their attempts from the stripe.

The threat of the inside game by Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers also helped create positive spacing opportunities for Kobe King’s mid-range jumper and for his teammates from deep.

On the season, Wisconsin has shot a very high number of three-pointers, over 20 attempts in all but two games. Against the Fighting Illini, Wisconsin shot 26.7% on 15 total three-point attempts, a significant shift in strategy, and it didn’t help them out in this one. Wisconsin struggled to score down the stretch, while Illinois was able to take advantage of some lackluster Badger defense.

No. 2: Potter is free!

After being shackled by the NCAA for almost two months, Micah Potter displayed some rust in acclimating back into the swing of things in his first four games of the season.

That all changed against Illinois. With Nate Reuvers battling foul trouble early on, Micah Potter went to work at unveiling the whole damn toolbox. In the first half alone Potter had 11 points, five rebounds, two blocks, and a steal.

The junior forward gave the Badgers a much needed lift against a tough Illinois front line. On the game Potter would finish with 13 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks.

No. 3: Foul happy

This game was choppy throughout with the high number of fouls that were levied in this game. Both teams were in the bonus in each half of the game, and it led to a free-throw contest at times.

Wisconsin was on the beneficial end of the foul fest in particular, getting into the double bonus each stanza. The Badgers held up their end of the bargain by making 20-of-23 from the charity stripe for the game, a balmy 87%.

The problem however, was that the shots from the field failed to fall during the final five minutes of the game due to poor shot selection and missed opportunities.

Up next: The basketball team will be back in business on Saturday against the No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions (12-3 overall, 2-2 B1G) at 1:15 p.m. CST on Big Ten Network.