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Wisconsin men’s basketball: shorthanded Badgers withstand Illinois State

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The Badgers managed to beat Illinois State in a nail biter 89-85 at the Kohl Center on Wednesday night.

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

MADISON — After a two-week hiatus, the No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (10-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) was finally back in action on Wednesday night against Illinois State (8-6 overall, 1-0 Missouri Valley).

Despite being down five players, the short-handed Badgers were able to take care of business against ISU and secure a narrow four-point win.

Early in the game, Wisconsin made it a point to go inside. The Badgers scored their first 10 points in the paint and were able to grab an early 10-2 advantage at the first media timeout.

Over the next couple of minutes, Johnny Davis and Chucky Hepburn continued to pour it on to extend the Wisconsin advantage to 16 by the 12-minute mark. At that point in time, the Badgers were shooting 71% from the floor as everything was working.

Illinois State would answer with an 11-0 run to help them claw within 10 points with eight minutes remaining, but Davis would personally keep the Badgers afloat as the team looked out of sorts on both ends of the court.

Over the final four minutes of the first half, the two teams would continue to go back and forth. However, a big three-pointer by Steven Crowl would give the Badgers a 10-point lead at halftime.

In the opening moments of the second half, the Badgers were able to get things going offensively to push their lead back up to 14 points at the first media timeout. Brad Davison, who was held scoreless in the first half, was able to connect on a crucial three-point attempt, and Tyler Wahl was able to convert inside to get the team a jolt of energy.

However, Illinois State would not relent. The Redbirds continued to shoot the ball well against Wisconsin’s porous pick and roll defense and were able to make it only a five-point lead with seven minutes left to play.

Illinois State continued to chip away over the next three minutes, and with 4:06 left to play, the UW edge was cut to only three points. A crucial Davis turnover with two minutes remaining would allow for Illinois State to get within one point in the final moments of the game, but ultimately Wahl was able to draw a charge as Wisconsin pushed the lead back to five.

Over the final minute, Josiah Strong of Illinois State would hit a crucial three to make things interesting, but Davison would salt the game away from the free-throw line to secure the win for Wisconsin.

Notable stat lines:

  • Johnny Davis —> 20 points (6-of-23 from the floor), 11 rebounds, four assists
  • Steven Crowl —> 21 points (7-of-8 from the floor), nine rebounds, two assists
  • Tyler Wahl —> 18 points (5-of-9 from the floor), six rebounds
  • Antonio Reeves (ISU) —> 23 points (8-of-18 from the floor), four rebounds, three assists

Up next: The Badgers return to Big Ten play on Monday, January 3 against No. 3 Purdue. Tip time is set for 6 p.m. CT and it will be aired on BTN from West Lafayette, Ind.