The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (16-9 overall, 10-8 Big Ten) earned a pivotal road win over Northwestern last week to stop a two game losing skid. On Saturday afternoon, the Badgers were back on the hardwood for a rematch with the No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini.
Last time Wisconsin faced off with the Fighting Illini things went poorly as Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu proved to be too much for the Badgers. However, with Dosunmu out with an injury and the matchup at the Kohl Center for round two, there was a sliver of hope that Wisconsin could steal a win against the No. 5 team in the nation.
A poor shooting display however doomed the Badgers, as Illinois was able to complete the season sweep with a five point win.
Illinois takes down Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, 74-69.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 27, 2021
D'Mitrik Trice dropped 29 points (25 in the second half), but it was not enough against the short handed Fighting Illini.
In the opening moments of the game, the Badgers would start off slow as Illinois grabbed a 13-2 lead. Wisconsin missed 13 straight shots, and if it wasn’t for a bevy of Illini turnovers the start could have been much worse.
Wisconsin was able to put together a 8-0 run to tighten Illinois’ lead to only four points with 7:10 remaining in the first half behind some big shots by Trevor Anderson, and more Illinois turnovers.
Illinois would keep the Badgers at arms length over the course of the next few minutes, as both teams struggled to score. However, a hook and hold call on Brad Davison and some timely scoring by the Fighting Illini extended the lead to 11 at the half.
Wisconsin down 37-26 at halftime to Illinois.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 27, 2021
Poor shooting across the board is the story so far for the #Badgers.
Wisconsin would continue their shooting struggles in the early minutes of the second half, but remarkably the Badgers only trailed by 40-32 with 14:45 remaining in the game.
Illinois was able to push the lead up to 14 with 10 minutes left to play, even with Kofi Cockburn on the bench with three fouls.
Five minutes later and the margin was eerily similar, as Illinois continued to maintain the upper hand on the Badgers 54-42.
D’Mitrik Trice would go on to score 19 straight points with time ticking down to give the Badgers a chance in the final couple minutes. The senior guard put the team completely on his back and made things interesting, but in the end Illinois would hold off Wisconsin for a five-point win.
Notable stat lines:
- D’Mitrik Trice —> 29 points (9-of-16 from the floor), two assists, one steal
- Micah Potter —> 15 points (5-of-12 from the floor), six rebounds, one block
- Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) —> 19 points (7-of-13 from three), seven rebounds
- Andre Curbelo (Illinois) —> 17 points (6-of-13 from the floor), seven rebounds, two steals
What have we done wrong with our lives that Bo Boroski is so prominently involved in it?— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 27, 2021
Three things that stood out:
No. 1: Shooting
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Badgers struggled to score the basketball once again.
The Wisconsin offense was out of sync and stalled on multiple occasions. Even with six offensive rebounds the Badgers were unable to convert on the offensive end, and concluded the first half shooting a putrid 27% from the floor and a shade over 21% from three. Even with 17 more shot attempts than the Illini, Wisconsin still made three fewer baskets in what was another tough half to watch.
Not much changed in the second half for the Badgers, as the shooting woes continued. In fact, Wisconsin shot worse for most of the second half until D’Mitrik Trice went on an absolute tear late. As a team they finished shooting 10-of-31 from three for the game.
The Badgers have had long stretches and poor shooting halves routinely this season, but against Illinois on Saturday the shooting issues were present all game long.
13-2 Illinois.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 27, 2021
The #Badgers have missed their last 13 FGs, and Illinois is currently shooting 75% without their top player.
No. 2: No Dosunmu, no problem
Even without their top scorer, Illinois outplayed the Badgers. The Fighting Illini were far from perfect considering they compiled a whopping 20 turnovers, but even in one of their worst performances of the year they were the better team.
Kofi Cockburn once again dominated the paint, and impacted the game in so many ways. His presence inside altered Wisconsin’s ability to score near the rim, and once again the Badgers fell into a trap of settling for jumpers.
Illinois did not bring their A-game against the Badgers on Saturday afternoon, but regardless they took down Wisconsin for the second time this year.
No. 3: Trice on Senior Day
D’Mitrik Trice played phenomenally down the stretch with 19 straight points for the team and shooting 100% in that time frame. He was shooting absolutely unconscious and it was one of the better two minute stretches you will ever see from a player. Alas it was not enough to ultimately pull Wisconsin out of the hole they dug themselves, but his performance was ridiculous.
In addition to Trice, six other seniors were recognized for their time in Madison in pregame as well. The game represented the final time that most (potentially all) of them would don a Wisconsin jersey inside the Kohl Center, and the game was the just the latest example of the struggles that this group has gone through this season, as they fell to 0-6 against the top-four teams in the conference.
As a whole the game was not the way that the seven seniors would have liked to go out, but they created many great memories in Madison, including a B1G title last season.
Up next: Wisconsin will be back in action Tuesday night against Purdue. Tip-time is scheduled for 8 p.m. CST, and the game will be aired on ESPN/ESPN2.