CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – After a week off, the Badgers returned to action on Sunday at Illinois in a back and forth shooting battle with eight ties and 10 lead changes, but the Fighting Illini would pull away in the end to defeat the Badgers, 78-68.
Wisconsin (10-12, 2-10 B1G) and Illinois (10-14, 2-11 BIG) battled from the very beginning. Illinois used three early 3-pointers to take a 15-10 lead over UW at the 4:13 mark of the first quarter, but the Badgers responded with a 7-0 run coming out of a media timeout (1:37 on the clock) to take its first lead of the game, 17-15. The Illini would make a last second four-point play to take the first quarter, 23-21.
The second quarter was nothing less than a battle. UW went on a 12-2 run to grab its biggest lead of the game (33-27) with 5:26 until the half as the Illini struggled with fouls and put the Badgers into bonus as well as to the charity line. But, Illinois responded right back with a big 7-0 run to steal the lead again, 34-33, with 2:55 left in the quarter. Senior Kelly Karlis hit a huge 3-pointer with four seconds left in the half to stay within two points of Illinois, 42-40.
The Badgers came out of the half using a 7-2 run by the 8:18 mark in the third to grab the lead back (47-44), but Illinois responded with its own 7-0 run to steal it back (51-47) with 7:07 left in the quarter. Another big 5-0 run for the Badgers by the 6:35 mark to take the lead, 52-51, was quickly followed by an Illinois 5-0 with 3:55 left in the third (56-52) as they picked up their defense and continued to pull away. Illinois’ Alex Wittinger was nearly unstoppable scoring 16 points in the third period alone to outscore the Badgers 25-19.
Illinois made the first points of the fourth quarter to grab a 10-point lead (69-59) with 9:38 left in the game and would use nine offensive rebounds in the period to seal the win as UW could not respond.
Senior Marsha Howard led the Badgers with 19 points including nine from the free-throw line and tallied seven rebounds. Freshman Imani Lewis added 16 points and seven rebounds while sophomore Niya Beverley also shot in double figures with 11 points.
UW shot 42.6 percent (26-61) from the field, including 4-13 (30.8 percent) from beyond the arc and hitting just over half of their free-throws, 12-23 (52.2 percent). Illinois shot just above with 43.9 percent (29-66) from the field including 8-24 (33.3 percent) from 3-point range and a dominating 12-14 (85.7 percent) from the charity stripe.
Wisconsin dominated off the glass in the first half, but Illinois came back strong tooutrebound UW 41-38.
UW led in the paint, shooting 36 points to 22 Illinois points.
Wisconsin returns home to face No. 23 Michigan State (16-6, 6-5 BIG) on Thursday night. Come celebrate Valentine’s day with the Badgers. Game is set to tip off at 7 p.m. from the Kohl Center.
–UW-Madison Athletic Communications