MADISON – Back at full-strength for the first time in almost two weeks, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team hoped to make a statement Saturday at the Kohl Center.
The Badgers did, though not the type they planned.
In suffering an ugly 61-51 loss to Illinois, the Badgers showed they are not good enough to put together 40 minutes of winning basketball on both ends of the court.
Greg Gard’s team can play well in spurts, but that hasn’t been good enough and won’t be good enough the rest of the season.
Cold shooting was the issue in the opening half as the Badgers hit just 3 of 14 three-pointers and 6 of 33 shots overall yet trailed by just 20-16.
After falling behind by 12 points early in the second half, the Badgers found their shooting touch and battled back for a 35-34 lead with 11 minutes 32 seconds left.
UW then buckled on both ends of the court as scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in a 22-4 Illinois run.
The Illini had a 56-39 lead with 4:03 left and UW’s victory hopes were all but gone.
UW (12-8, 4-6 Big Ten) is in the midst of its second three-game losing streak of the season and has won just once in its last seven games.
Illinois (15-6, 6-4) defeated UW for the second time this season and the sixth time overall.
Mayer, who was relatively quiet (10 points, six rebounds) in the teams’ first meeting, scored 18 of his points after halftime. He hit 5 of 11 three-pointers and 9 of 18 shots overall. He hit 2 three-pointers in the decisive 22-4 run.
, who missed two games because of facial injuries suffered in the victory over Penn State on Jan. 17, sparked UW early and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Badgers’ last game:
, who hit just 4 of 16 shots in the loss to Northwestern and took just three shots in the loss at Maryland, missed his first six field-goal attempts Saturday. His first make was a three-pointer with 14:39 left to help pull UW within six points.
He finished with 15 points and five rebounds.
, who did not play in the first Illinois game, went to the bench for the final 15:07 of the first half after picking up his second foul. He picked up his third and fourth fouls in a span of three seconds early in the second half and finished with nine points and four rebounds.
, who had a double-double (20 points, 12 rebounds) in the teams’ first meeting, had just two points in the opening half. He picked up his fourth foul with 9:49 left in the game and finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
, coming off a 19-point performance at Maryland, suffered through a freshman game on both ends of the court. He missed all five field-goal attempts, struggled on defense and finished with three points.
UW finished 9 of 27 from three-point range but just 19 of 57 overall.
Both teams struggled to score for agonizingly long stretches in the first half.
The Illini hit 2 of 10 three-pointers and 9 of 27 shots overall (33.3%). UW hit 3 of 13 three-pointers and just 6 of 32 shots overall (18.2%).
Crowl scored inside off a feed from to give the Badgers a 16-13 lead with 4:37 left in the half, but the home team went scoreless the rest of the half.
UW missed its final eight shots in the half and turned the ball over once, a foul on Crowl that wiped out a three-pointer by Essegian.
The Illini closed the half with a 7-0 run thanks to a basket inside by Dainja, a three-pointer by Mayer and a drive by Epps.
Illinois was the better team early in the second half and built a 29-20 lead.
The Illini got three baskets in the paint and a three-pointer by Mayer to build the lead. UW got four points from Wahl but turned the ball over three times in the first 2:06 of the half.
UW pulled within 32-23 on a three-pointer by Wahl with 16:00 left but just 32 seconds later Wahl was called for his third foul.
Gard kept the senior in the game but Wahl picked up his fourth foul just three seconds later and headed to the bench.
UW appeared dead.
Then Hepburn came alive with a pair of three-pointers and crafty drive to help UW take a 35-34 lead with 11:32 left.
UW was in the midst of a 15-2 run and Illinois coach Brad Underwood called a timeout with 11:26 left.
Mayer and Epps hit three-pointers to spark a 9-2 run as the Illini battled back for a 43-37 lead with 8:20 left.
Did UW have another run with Crowl and Wahl both saddled with four fouls?
Mayer kept scoring, from inside and outside, and UW couldn’t answer.
Another brutal loss.
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