The Wisconsin Badgers hit a low point in their season against Maryland, falling 73-55.
Head coach Greg Gard acknowledged getting a vital player back after the loss to Maryland, as he told reporters on Friday that guard Max Klesmit is expected to return on Saturday for the Badgers.
Defensively, they have struggled as of late. So, it’s a good thing they may get Klesmit back in the starting lineup after a two-game absence.
Kesmit's energy and defensive presence should help the Badgers in a matchup that they must win.
Going 4-5 in conference play isn't good enough for a team that started hot with an 11-2 record.
The Illinois Fighting Illini will come into the Kohl Center looking to push in transition, as they rank in the top 30 in the country in that regard.
They will shoot the ball from the outside a lot, which accounts for 43% of their shots. However, they are struggling from deep, shooting just 32.6% as a team for the season.
The Fighting Illini crash the boards at a high level, ranking in the top 35 on offensive rebounding.
Defensively, Illinois is 39th in opponents' points per game, and, in the half-court, they rank 7th, giving up 0.94 points per possession.
Second-chance points and high-level defense have been the main reason the Fighting Illini are 14-6 on the season.
Wisconsin will need to get back to playing high-level defense, as they are the 30th-ranked defense in the country, giving up 63.4 points per game.
The Badgers are the fourth-highest defensive rebounding team in the country, which should negate Illinois' offensive rebounding.
Defensively, both teams are really good, especially when Max Klesmit is in the lineup for the Badgers.
Offensively, Terrence Shannon Jr. leads the way for Illinois, scoring 18 points per game.
In the last matchup against Wisconsin, Shannon Jr. scored 24 points en route to a victory over the Badgers to the score of 79-69.
The Badgers are a team that looks to post up and kick out, but they don't have that player that can get a bucket when the team needs it.
This is a must-win game for Wisconsin, who do not want to fall to 12-8, which would put the Badgers at 1-6 in their last 7 games.
Beating Illinois is going to take 3 things: defensive rebounding, better shot selection, and Chucky Hepburn going for 20+ points.
Will they accomplish those tasks? Let us know in the comments!