MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Senior Jordan Taylor scored 16 points in his final home game, helping No. 14 Wisconsin beat Illinois 70-56 on Sunday in both teams’ regular season finale.
Josh Gasser added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Badgers (23-8, 12-6), who have won three straight going into this week’s Big Ten tournament. The Badgers honored Taylor and fellow senior Rob Wilson in their final Kohl Center appearances.
Brandon Paul had 22 points for Illinois (17-14, 6-12). The loss continued what has been a miserable collapse in the second half of the Big Ten season for the Illini, and coach Bruce Weber’s future at the school remains in doubt.
Illinois had only three assists, a season-low.
It was the 265th victory at Wisconsin for Badgers coach Bo Ryan, tying Harold “Bud” Foster for most wins in the program’s history.
The Badgers noted Ryan’s achievement in a ceremony immediately after the game, before moving on to tributes for Taylor and Wilson.
Wisconsin came into Sunday’s game allowing an NCAA-best 51.8 points per game, and they looked every bit like the nation’s top defensive team as they held the struggling Illini to only 18 points in the first half.
Illinois has lost its last seven road games. Overall, the Illini have lost 11 of their last 13 since beating Ohio State on Jan. 10. Fans in Wisconsin’s student section chanted “NIT! NIT! NIT!” in the closing minutes of the game.
Winning the conference tournament is now the only path for the Illini to make the NCAAs.
The Badgers took away whatever fight was left in the Illini early, hitting five of their first nine 3-point attempts as they charged to a 22-9 lead.
The Illini got a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Paul at the end of the half, one of the few highlights of the opening 20 minutes, but still went into halftime trailing 31-18 — their lowest scoring output in a half all season.
The Illini shot 6 for 24 from the field in the first half, with seven turnovers and only one assist.
The Badgers weren’t particularly impressive on offense in the first half, but they didn’t have to be. Taylor had a team-high eight points at the half, going 2 for 3 from 3-point range.
Illinois made something of a surge to start the second half, cutting the lead to nine on two free throws by Paul with 15:47 left.
But after the teams traded baskets, Frank Kaminsky hit a 3-pointer for Wisconsin and a pass from Paul went off the hands of Meyers Leonard and out of bounds.
Even with his team struggling and his own future in doubt, Weber was as intense and focused as ever, yelling and gesturing on the sidelines.
Leading 42-32 with just over 11 minutes left, Wisconsin used a short scoring spurt to take control of the game. Wilson hit a long jumper, Jared Berggren blocked Paul on the other end and Mike Bruesewitz hit a jumper.
After two free throws by Leonard, Gasser hit a 3-pointer to give the Badgers a 49-34 lead with 9 minutes left.
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