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RECAP: Wisconsin loses third straight in 61-51 loss to Illinois

The Wisconsin Badgers continue to self-destruct with their sixth loss in seven games.

The Wisconsin Badgers (12-8, 4-6 Big Ten) continued to disappoint, suffering a 61-51 home loss to the Illinois Fighting Illini (15-6, 6-4 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon.

Following a slow scoring start in the first half where the team shot an abysmal 6/33 from the field, the Badgers went on to lose their sixth game of the last seven.

It did not seem like things could quite possibly get any worse after scoring just 16 points in the first half. However, the Badgers managed to get outscored 22-4 midway through the second half which truly was the nail in the coffin.

Illinois forward Matthew Mayer scored a career-high 26 points while shooting 5-11 from three, single-handedly pummeling the Badgers defensively in the second half.

However, not all was bad this afternoon.

Both Chucky Hepburn and Max Klesmit hit 3 three-pointers, and it seemed as if Hepburn was back to his normal scoring ways in the second half. Also, Klesmit led the team with 8 rebounds in a solid defensive performance.

But that was about it.

There is no sugar-coating just how awful of a game it was. On a day when the Badgers desperately needed to redeem themselves and finally re-enter the win column, the team managed to give a performance that fans will happily forget about.

The Badgers finished shooting 33.3% from the field including 8/15 on layups and 4/7 from the free-throw line.

Once again, the bench failed to provide much offensive output, scoring just 5 points. However, props to Carter Gilmore for his solid first-half minutes, providing probably the most energizing moment in a rather dull half with his big 3-point shot.

Anyways, Jordan Davis failed to provide much of anything offensively, even though he played 22 minutes. Markus Ilver played just seven minutes and shot 0-4 from the field. And neither Kamari McGee nor Chris Hodges saw much action at all.

On an afternoon where Connor Essegian probably had his worst game of the season, the Badgers desperately needed scoring help off the bench. But instead, they got little to none.

The team also struggled defensively in the second half, giving up 41 points. This has been a common issue in their last six losses. The Badgers have given up 40+ points in the second half in 4 of those games.

One main reason for the poor defensive play was foul trouble. Both Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl were in foul trouble throughout the game, both finishing with four fouls. Wahl picked up two early fouls in the first half and found himself on the bench for the majority of the game.

Without your best defenders on the floor, it is difficult to stop a team like Illinois who can be very efficient on the offensive end.

Connor Essegian also struggled tonight on the defensive end, and Illinois took note of that and attacked him throughout the game. Essegian was matched up with Mayer a few times, and Mayer took advantage.

Offensively, Essegian finished with just 3 points after going 0-5 from the field.

A common complaint that has been brought up quite a bit recently is the lack of energy and noise from the fans at the Kohl Center. People have been disappointed with how quiet the stadium has been at times. The argument is that without a rowdy student section and noise from the fans, is it really much of a home-court advantage at all?

However, following today’s game, I believe the reason for the lack of noise inside the Kohl Center is due to the minimal amount of exciting play being seen on the court.

How can you expect fans to root for a team that is scoring just 16 points in a half, the least of any Big Ten team this season?

How can you expect fans to stand up and yell at the top of their lungs when the product on the court is clearly not worthy of celebration?

The answer is: you can’t.

Unless this team makes some serious changes this week, it may be a long and frustrating finish to what began as a promising season.