Illinois men’s basketball overcomes slow start to defeat Wisconsin 61-51 on the road


Jacob Slabosz

Fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer attempts to block a layup from Indiana’s Malik Reneau on Jan. 19. Mayer had a solid performance on Saturday against Wisconsin, helping to lead the Illini to a 61-51 win.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

After securing a solid home victory against Ohio State last Tuesday, Illinois men’s basketball traveled to Madison to take on Wisconsin. The Illini defeated their neighbors to the north 79-69 in Champaign on Jan. 7 and completed the season sweep on Saturday with a 61-51 triumph.

Head coach Brad Underwood made no changes to the starting five that downed Ohio State earlier in the week. Senior guard Terrence Shannon Jr., freshman guard Jayden Epps, fifth-year forward Matthew Mayer, junior forward Coleman Hawkins and redshirt sophomore forward Dain Dainja took the floor to start for the Illini.

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The game started off very slow for both teams. Epps opened the scoring after driving to the rim and scoring a quick layup before Max Klesmit responded with a three-point make for the Badgers.

The Illini and the Badgers then entered an extended scoring drought, and five minutes into the game, the two teams shot a combined 2-15 from the floor. Mayer eventually snapped the drought with an impressive make from beyond the arc, regaining the lead for Illinois at 5-3.

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    Halfway through the first period, a triple from Carter Gilmore stole the lead back for the Badgers at 8-7. In the final 10 minutes of the half, Dainja continued to go head to head with the Badgers, scoring eight straight points for the Illini to keep the visitors in the contest.

    Dainja, Mayer and Epps combined to boost Illinois to a 7-0 scoring run to close out the half. As both teams headed into the break, it was the Illini who led 20-16 after a remarkably low-scoring period. While Illinois shot a mere 33.3% from the floor, Wisconsin shot an even worse 18.2%.

    Shannon opened the second half scoring after a quick layup. The Illini began to hit shots with a much higher consistency and led 32-23 five minutes in. Mayer continued to lead the Illini offensively before the Badgers put together a short 7-0 scoring run. Shannon halted momentum by adding two quick free throw makes, however Wisconsin sparked another 8-0 run to regain the lead at 35-34 with 11:26 remaining.

    Mayer’s accuracy from the three did not slow up, with the fifth-year forward scoring his fourth triple to steal the lead back. The Badgers tied the game at 37-37 before the Illini went on a 10-0 run to bring the score to 47-37 with just under seven minutes to go.

    Illinois continued to run away on the scoreboard as Mayer hit another three to boost the visitor’s lead to 11. The Illini never looked back and built their scoring run up to 19-2 over the course of 5:59.

    By the final buzzer, the Illini had claimed a 61-51 triumph for their 15th victory of the season and its sixth Big Ten win. The team will return to Champaign for a Tuesday night clash with Nebraska.



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