Badgers keep hot-handed Illinois cool

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first_imgPoint guard Jordan Taylor took blame for UW’s loss in East Lansing but the Junior responded with 22 points in a win over Illinois.[/media-credit]Coming into Saturday’s matchup against No. 21 Wisconsin, No. 16 Illinois brandished the nation’s 13th-best field goal percentage, at 48.8.At the Kohl Center, though, that number dropped to 30.2, as the Fighting Illini (13-5, 3-2) dropped their second straight game, 76-66. The Badgers (13-4, 3-2) have not allowed an opponent to shoot 40 percent or better in the last three games.Led by senior forward Jon Leuer, the Badgers featured three scorers in double digits for the fifth game in a row. Leuer led all scorers with 26 points, hitting nine of 16 shots from the field, while also grabbing nine rebounds.Against a big Illinois team, Wisconsin opted for a big lineup of its own, starting redshirt sophomore Jared Berggren and senior Tim Jarmusz. Among all the giants on the floor, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said Leuer stood taller than all others.“Leuer, definitely, was the guy that was special tonight, they went with the big lineup, it allowed him to go inside a little bit,” Weber said. “As the game went on, he was the key to the game. Every time they needed a basket they were able to go to him and he was able to respond.”Junior guard Jordan Taylor filed 22 points for Wisconsin, while senior forward Keaton Nankivil chipped in another 14 points, complimented by seven rebounds and three blocks.In the first half, both teams struggled to shoot efficiently and were especially plagued from beyond the arc. Wisconsin went one for 12 from three-point land, but it was Illinois that converted the first three-pointer of the game with just under two minutes remaining in the period.The Illini appeared to be gaining some momentum when D.J. Richardson knocked down the team’s second three-pointer with 42 seconds remaining to take a 25-24 lead.But with less than 10 seconds remaining, Taylor drove to right from the top of the key and kicked the ball out to Jarmusz in the corner who took advantage of the open look and gave Wisconsin a 27-25 lead at the half.“I was trying to get in the lane and make a play,” Taylor said. “(Demetri) McCamey kind of ran off of Tim a little bit and I saw him open, hit him, and Tim hit a big shot. It’s always good when you can go into the break with a lead. It’s a big momentum builder and a big confidence builder, especially in a manner like that.”The Badgers’ lone three-pointer proved to be pivotal, as Wisconsin never relinquished the lead from there and opened the second half with a 13-2 scoring run to widen the gap to 40-27.During that scoring run at the second half’s beginning, the Badgers converted on three of four attempts from the arc, two of which came off the hands of Nankivil.Wisconsin went on to hit five of eight three-point shots in the second half, a 54.2 percent difference compared to the first half.“I don’t really think we were doing anything differently, I think shots just started to fall,” Taylor said. “Keaton had two big threes, I think it was, and we were just being aggressive and I think balls just started to fall our way.”From there, Wisconsin’s lead remained constant between seven and 11 points for the rest of the game.Once there were less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, fouls came flooding in, and nearly each one was met with booming reactions from the crowd. For three consecutive possessions, Illinois guard McCamey drove hard to the basket to draw a foul and the trend did not abate much for the rest of the game.McCamey led the Illini with 23 points, the bulk of which came from the line in the second half as he attempted 19 free throws in the period alone. Overall, he converted on 17 of 21 free throws and three of 13 field goals.Although Wisconsin’s grasp of the game never seemed in question, Leuer said afterward that it was difficult for the team to establish a rhythm as the game neared it’s end.“I don’t think it was an issue really in the first half. It seemed like we had a good flow to the game going,” Leuer said. “Not until late did it get to be a lot of fouls called, but they were calling it both ways. It’s the players’ job to adjust to how the refs are calling the game. Regardless of how they’re calling it you have to adjust and find a way to win and we did that.”last_img

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