McCamey leads Illinois past Wisconsin

By Jeremy Werner

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber was surprised at his team’s demeanor before the start of its matchup with Wisconsin on Saturday. Usually a spirited bunch, the Illinois players displayed a more business-like attitude.

“They were quiet (Saturday) before the game,” Weber said. “That surprised me. Usually, they’re giddy and silly before the game. But they were quiet and I think that’s how you got to be before Wisconsin.”

With its national ranking – and more importantly – a position in the Big Ten race at stake, the No. 25 Illini defeated Wisconsin 64-57 at the Assembly Hall with a workman-like attitude to remain just a game behind Michigan State for the Big Ten lead.


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Illini beat Badgers

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“We’re just trying to take care of business game-by-game,” said senior guard Chester Frazier, who had nine points. “But obviously we want to compete for a Big Ten championship.”

Sophomore guard Demetri McCamey scored a season-high 25 points to help Illinois (17-3, 5-2 Big Ten) defeat the Badgers for the first time in six games.

“I think it’s a little bit, for us as a staff, a sense of relief,” Weber said. “They’ve had the best end of us the last couple years. You know what you’re going to get when you play (Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s) teams. They’re always so competitive. They make you earn the victory.”

The Illini led Wisconsin 45-30 early in the second half, but the Badgers stormed back to cut the lead to 61-55 with 52 seconds remaining. Despite two Illinois turnovers in the final minute, Wisconsin missed four of its final five shots, and the Illini made 3-of-4 free throws to preserve the victory. Illinois has now won eight straight at the Assembly Hall: the longest home winning streak in the Big Ten.

“I guess you wished it would have been a little cleaner at the end,” Weber said. “It wasn’t, but we won. We found a way to win. We’re holding home court.”

Illinois’ defense had another strong outing, holding the Badgers to ten points below their season average on 35.6 percent shooting, including 6-of-21 from beyond the arc. Joe Krabbenhoft led Wisconsin with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Marcus Landry and Trevon Hughes each added 13 points.

McCamey took Weber’s advice by looking to score in multiple fashions and not settling for too many 3-pointers. The sophomore point guard created shots for himself and his teammates by repeatedly penetrating the lane on Krabbenhoft, a slower defender.

McCamey had seven assists and made a season-high 11 free throws on 13 attempts. He had ten of Illinois’ final 15 points to seal the victory.

“They had Krabbenhoft on me, and I told my teammates that I think I can beat him off the dribble,” McCamey said. “The first couple of plays were successful, so coach gave me the ball and told me to go to work.”

Mike Davis was the only other Illini in double figures with 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds. The Badgers (12-7, 3-4 Big Ten) have now lost four-straight Big Ten games for the first time since losing their final 11 conference games in 1998.

The Illini will head to Minneapolis to take on No. 21 Minnesota (17-3, 5-3) on Thursday. Illinois has won 20-consecutive games against the Gophers, including eight straight at Williams Arena. The Illini then return home on Sat., Feb. 1 for a 1 p.m. tip-off against Iowa.

“We did what we’re supposed to do. We won two home games.” Weber said of last week’s performance against Wisconsin and Ohio State. “It was good. It was against teams that had beaten us the last couple years. So we made some progress with that. Now, we have to come back. If you’re going to win the Big Ten championship or be in that race, you have to keep staying focused. Keep pushing ahead.”