Illini basketball routed by Wisconsin


Illinois’ Nnanna Egwu (32) and Rayvonte Rice (24) double team Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky (44) during the game at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisc. on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. The Illini lost, 95-70.

By Shannon Ryan

MADISON, Wis. — As coach John Groce has gotten to know his young Illinois team, he has been most impressed with its call to adversity.

A comeback against Missouri, a fight against Oregon, a rally against Illinois-Chicago at the United Center, every time the Illini have responded with an incessant toughness.

He didn’t see much of that at Wisconsin.

The Illini were doomed Wednesday night during the Badgers’ 20-0 first-half run in ultimately a dominating 95-70 victory.

“I didn’t like our fight there,” Groce said. “We’ve been down double digits on numerous occasions. We’ve come from behind and shown a lot of fight and a lot of grit. It’s very atypical of this team. I didn’t like our body language. I didn’t like the look of our team during that run.”

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    No. 23 Illinois (13-3, 2-1) has not won at fourth-ranked Wisconsin (16-0, 3-0) since 2010, a streak of four games, or beaten a top-5 team on the road since 1989.

    The 95 points were the most Wisconsin has scored against Illinois since 1974 and it’s the most points Illinois has given up in a game since a 95-91 overtime loss at Michigan in 2000 under coach Lon Kruger.

    The Badgers, who are off to their best start in school history, have beaten six straight ranked opponents at home and have beaten the Illini six consecutive times. They had not scored more than 90 points against an opponent since the 2001-02 season.

    As Illinois’ Joseph Bertrand put it, “Offense wasn’t the problem.”

    The Illini had prided themselves on a blue-collar defense that had allowed only Indiana (83-80 victory in overtime) and Oregon (71-64 loss) to score more than 70 points.

    Wisconsin shot 56.1 percent from the field as it showcased an arsenal of scorers. Guard Ben Brust led a cast of five in double figures with 18 points.

    Groce bemoaned Illinois’ ability to make or limit 2-point field goals. Wisconsin connected on 63.2 percent from that range, while the Illini made only 33.3 percent, missing bunnies and tip-ins.

    Only Rayvonte Rice (19 points) and Bertrand (18 points) were effective offensively for the Illini. Starters Nnanna Egwu (2 of 9), Jon Ekey (1 of 5) and Tracy Abrams (3 of 11) were mostly invisible.

    The 20-0 run kept the Illini without a field goal for 6 minutes, 20 seconds as they fell behind 33-10.

    “That’s really not who we are,” Groce said.