College

Wisconsin Grinds Out Win At Illinois, 74-68

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Wisconsin overcame a ragged start and used 39 combined points from a pair of players who come from Illinois to beat the Illini on the road Sunday, 74-68.

Ben Brust scored a game-high 20 for the Badgers (15-7, 6-3 Big Ten) and Frank Kaminsky had 19. Both are from the Chicago area, and Kaminsky was playing his first serious minutes since suffering an eye injury against Indiana Jan. 15.

Their big night made up for a quiet one from Jared Berggren, who was the Badgers’ leading scorer coming in. But Berggren drew two first-half fouls and picked up his third early in the second half, limiting his time on the court. He finished with six points in 17 minutes.

Neither team was effective offensively over the first 20 minutes.

Wisconsin shot under 30 percent for most of the first half and combined with the Illini to score 14 points in the game’s first eight minutes.

Wisconsin eventually started making shots and Illinois (15-8, 2-7) didn’t until it was too late.

Illinois was led by Joseph Bertrand’s 17 points. Four other Illini scored in double figures: Nnanna Egwu with 14, Brandon Paul — who came off the bench for the first time this season — with 13 and D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams with 10 each.

The Illini have lost seven of nine and have fallen to 10th in the conference.

The Illini closed the gap on the Badgers very late but trailed by 15 with 5:13 to play.

The Badgers built that big lead on defense and run of impatient Illini shooting.

First, Myke Henry missed on a long 3-pointer, answered quickly by Berggren, whose short bucket put Wisconsin up 53-41 with 8:54 to play.

Then, after a quick miss on a 3-point try by Richardson, Evans sank a jump shot from the corner for a 55-41 edge.

Wisconsin survived a run by the Illini early in the half.

Illinois closed to 35-30 on a dunk by Egwu and had a chance to narrow that gap by two more when Joseph Bertrand stole the ball and fed Henry as he sprinted down court. But Henry, a reserve who plays just 10 minutes a game, missed the dunk. And an Assembly Hall crowd ready to explode instead could do nothing but groan.

Given that reprieve, the Badgers made Illinois pay.

Wisconsin went on an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from a wide-open Kaminsky — so open he hesitated before taking the shot, glancing as if to look for a pass that might be the better option. And just like that the Badgers were up 43-30 with 14:33 to play.

Kaminsky played 23 minutes off the bench. Since having his left eye poked in the Indiana game he’d played just four minutes, and still has to wear protective goggles.

The Badgers shot 55.6 percent in the second half, and went to the free-throw line 31 times, hitting 19.

In contrast, Wisconsin shot 35.5 percent in the first half. Illinois was worse, at 29.6 percent.

Illinois, though, took the lead 16-14 on a 3-pointer by Richardson with 8:21 left in the first half.

It looked like a sign that the Illini might be about to find something resembling touch. That didn’t happen, but the Badgers started clawing their way out of their own shooting funk.

They went on a 19-8 run to finish the half ahead, 33-24.

Two of those points came on Brust’s layup with 1:33 to play in the half. The basket was initially denied by a shot clock violation but, after Wisconsin’s players pointed out that fewer than 20 seconds had actually elapsed on the shot clock. But it took a lengthy discussion by the officials after Illinois’ next possession to get it right.

The delay, several minutes long, quieted the crowd and, once the points had been put on the scoreboard, agitate Illinois coach John Groce.

His frustration boiled over on the half’s final possession. Paul drove for a buzzer-beating layup but missed and appeared to draw a foul that wasn’t called.

Groce, angry, repeatedly shouted at official Mike Sanzere as the teams left the court. Sanzere gave Groce a technical foul.

Brust, shooting the free throws after the teams came back out for the second half, missed both.
The Illini have lost seven of nine and have fallen to 10th in the conference.
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