Illinois is playing well enough at the moment that it might be in position to end a lengthy home losing streak against Wisconsin.
By winning a season high-matching fourth straight game, the No. 12 Fighting Illini will halt a seven-game home skid to the 19th-ranked Badgers on Saturday in a Big Ten contest at Champaign, Ill.
Last season, Illinois (12-5, 8-3 Big Ten) snapped a 15-game overall losing streak to Wisconsin with a 71-70 road win. Now, the Illini will try to snap a home slide against the Badgers (14-5, 8-4) that dates back to January 2011, when they last beat Wisconsin in Champaign.
Illinois, which is playing some of its best basketball of the season, should feel confident about snapping that skid. The Illini bounced back from consecutive home defeats to Maryland and then-No. 21 Ohio State by rolling over Penn State by 14, beating then-No. 7 Iowa 80-75, and rallying from a seven-point halftime hole to win 75-71 at Indiana in overtime on Tuesday.
Even though the Illini shot a season-low 38.6 percent, they stepped up on the defensive end of the floor to hold the Hoosiers to 33.3 percent shooting in the second half and three points in overtime. They also came through after star Ayo Dosunmu (21.2 points per game) fouled out with just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
“Defense is going to get us into our offense,” Illinois freshman Andre Curbelo, who had 12 points, told the Big Ten Network. “We’re in February already. We can’t lose any other games. From now on we’ve got to feel like … defense, defense, defense.”
Illinois held its last three opponents to a combined 39.4 percent shooting and forced 38 turnovers in those contests.
Wisconsin shot 39.4 percent over a 4-3 stretch before making 48.1 percent of its shots during Tuesday’s 72-56 home win over Penn State. Despite leading scorer D’Mitrik Trice (13.3 ppg) being held without a point, the Badgers prevailed after losing two of the previous three, including 81-71 at Penn State last weekend.
“We’ve all been in this league; we know how tough it is,” said guard Trevor Anderson, who scored nine points in 12 minutes off the bench on Tuesday. “Maybe to the outside, certain people don’t understand that. But every day is a grind in this league.
“So, (we’re) just not dwelling on a bad performance. … Moving on, flipping the script and just getting back to work the next day at practice and then just moving forward.”
That’s likely the attitude harbored by Trice, who has totaled six points in the last two games but scored 16 during a 72-60 win in the Badgers’ most recent trip to Illinois on Jan. 23, 2019. Teammate Nate Reuvers had 22 points and 10 rebounds in that contest. Micah Potter (12.3 ppg, 6.6 rebounds per game) scored 13 and pulled down nine boards in the one-point home loss to Illinois last season.
Dosunmu had 18 points and six assists against Wisconsin last season. Meanwhile, senior teammate Trent Frazier has averaged 18.7 points over the last three games.
–Field Level Media