Illini try to snap streak with Badgers

Demetri McCamey drives toward the basket during the first half of the Wisconsin game at Assembly Hall on Feb. 20. The Illini will face Wisconsin again this Saturday. Erica Magda

Demetri McCamey drives toward the basket during the first half of the Wisconsin game at Assembly Hall on Feb. 20. The Illini will face Wisconsin again this Saturday. Erica Magda

By Jeff LaBelle

The last 12 days have not been kind to Wisconsin or their top guard Trevon Hughes, but Illinois head coach Bruce Weber is a little “scared” for Saturday’s home matchup.

Wisconsin’s recent success against No. 25 Illinois (16-3, 4-2 in Big Ten) – five consecutive wins including three last year – is one reason for his concern. Three straight losses by the Badgers, including one to Minnesota and one to Iowa in overtime, is another.

That is, Weber figures Wisconsin (12-6, 3-3) is bound to play well eventually.

And Hughes, who has hit just 10 of his last 32 shots and only three of his last 16 from deep, can’t stay cold forever.

“My first thought is that (Hughes) is going to have a huge game here on Saturday,” Weber said.

“It scares me, to be honest, because he has played well against us. Last year, (Hughes was) the one guy Chester (Frazier) didn’t seem able to control. It’s a big challenge.

“For us, it looks like it’s not a good time to play them.”

After Wednesday’s flurry of upsets around college basketball – No. 7 Michigan State fell to Northwestern, No. 1 Wake Forest lost to Virginia Tech and Wisconsin’s loss – Illinois players and staff text messaged Weber in excitement. To avoid a similar fate, however, Trent Meacham said his team can’t get too caught up in scoreboard watching.

“There was a lot of crazy games (Wednesday night), but that’s how it is in college basketball,” Meacham said.

“Anybody can beat anybody. We just got to realize, it’s a long season. We can’t worry about what teams are winning and losing, and just every day come here and get better.”

And as for Wisconsin: “They’re just so solid, they’re so sound,” he added. “They don’t make mistakes. They got a lot of guys that can interchange, go outside, go inside. They’re tough. We really struggle with them. Since I’ve been here, we haven’t beaten them.”

Wisconin’s leading scorer, 6-foot-7 forward Marcus Landry, hasn’t been as off as Hughes lately, still averaging over 13 points his last three games compared to Hughes’ 11 points per game.

What may be plaguing Wisconsin, however, is their lack of size. According to Weber, Bo Ryan’s offense is usually “very flexible” and can “spread you, make you guard for long possessions.”

That’s not so much the case this season.

“They seemed to always have the big guy that would go in with his back to the basket and get a hoop when they needed it,” Weber said.

“It might be the difference with them, win or loss. They don’t have the (Brian) Butch, those guys, the (Mike) Wilkinson that could always get the easy basket under the hoop.”

After Tuesday night’s win over Ohio State, the Illini took Wednesday off before enduring a marathon practice Thursday afternoon.

Weber reiterated the importance of practice before another importance Big Ten matchup.

“History doesn’t matter,” Weber said.

“Getting ready the two days before, coming to the game, being ready to play, that’s what matters. Those two hours on the court. It’s something great to talk about, but it still comes down to our mental preparation.”

Jeff Jordan was added to the Illini’s list of scholarship athletes

Jordan, averaging just over one point and one assist per game, is registering 10 minutes of playing time per contest for the No. 25 Illini (16-3, 4-2 in Big Ten).

Jordan said Thursday that he was surprised by the news but that it was something he’s been working toward.

“At first, when I first came here, it was just trying to help the guys out and just trying to fit in with the team,” Jordan said at practice Thursday. “But the more I fit in, the more my goals kind of rose. It was definitely a goal early in the season, this season.”

With a strong class of guards committed for next season, Jordan doesn’t quite know what his role will be in the future, whether he’ll be able to take on a leadership role. But, he said, if history’s an indication, he should find a way to gel with a crowded backcourt.

“Every year, we’ve kind of been unsure what we’re going to do with lineups and everything. I don’t know how I’ve been fitting in with guards in the past, but somehow I’ve been getting in there, getting good minutes, playing hard, so hopefully that role increases next year.”