Updated rapid recap: Illinois loses 57-43 to Wisconsin


Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Leron Black (12) gets ready to go up for a layup after grabbing an offensive rebound during the game against Wisconsin at State Farm Center on Tuesday, January 31. The Illini lost 57-43.

By Lucas Wright, Staff writer

Different game, same story for head coach John Groce and the Illinois men’s basketball team.

With a chance to knock off No. 10 Wisconsin at the State Farm Center, Illinois trailed by 16 points midway through the first half. The Illini (13-10, 3-7) failed to cut the lead below six for the remainder of the game, falling to Wisconsin (19-3, 8-1) by a final score of 57-43.

A night that was possibly Illinois’ best chance to get a signature win and gain a little ground in the Big Ten was marred by what has become a typical performance from Groce’s squad: The team shot 27.6 percent from the field, got out-rebounded 45-36 and scored only 20 points in the first half.

“We’re better than that,” Groce said. “We’ve got to make some more shots, especially the open ones. We’ve got to shoot a higher percentage.”

Outside of an occasional Maverick Morgan post move or a Malcolm Hill pull-up jumper, the Illinois offense was nonexistent.

Illinois mustered a small inkling of a comeback early in the second half, getting Orange Krush and a majority of the State Farm Center crowd back into the game.

“It’s always difficult when you spot a team plus-15, especially when your playing Wisconsin,” Hill said. “They just play so slow.”

At the run’s peak, the Illini cut the Badger lead down to six, but a missed three from Hill and a made three from Wisconsin’s Zak Showalter extinguished Illinois’ opportunity.

Hill led the Illini offense with 10 points on a cold night from the floor, going 4-for-14. Along with Hill, Morgan added 10 points with four rebounds and two assists.

“I think we did a great job of making it tough on him,” Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes said. “It’s always good when a player takes more shots than he has points, so I think we did a good job.”

Illinois held the No. 1 Big Ten team and 10th ranked team in the nation to 57 points on 24-for-59 shooting and forced 12 turnovers, but still lost another double-digit affair.

“I thought our half-court defense was good enough to win,” Groce said. “They shot 40 percent from the field, and I thought we really fought there.”

Outside of the Wisconsin’s big three of Ethan Happ, Hayes and Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin scored 23 points across five different players.

The loss was Illinois’s fifth in its last six games. The 43 points were the least for Illinois this season.

“Whenever this team got down 16-2 you could see it, we fought,” Groce said. “I thought the only thing we didn’t do was rebound consistently enough.”

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