MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Illinois coach Bruce Weber says he has yelled, thrown tantrums, brought in guest speakers, peppered his players with motivational sayings and tried just about anything else he thought might shake the Illini out of their funk.
No luck yet.
Trevon Hughes scored 22 points and Brian Butch added 16 as No. 21 Wisconsin beat Illinois 70-60 on Thursday night to give the Illini their first four-game losing streak under Weber.
The losing streak began with three home losses, something Weber said was particularly troubling, and now the Illini (8-8, 0-3 Big Ten) head to No. 11 Indiana on Sunday as part of a stretch in which they’ll play five of seven on the road.
“We shouldn’t be in this dilemma,” said Weber, who is in his fifth season at Illinois. “If we played this hard back at the time, we wouldn’t be in this position, and this wouldn’t be a major catastrophe.”
The Illini, who came in as the only conference team to beat Wisconsin (13-2, 3-0) in the Kohl Center under coach Bo Ryan, managed to hang around for much of the game.
That was largely due to their 13 offensive rebounds, which produced 12 second-chance points, and shooting well from behind the 3-point line, a rarity for Illinois.
But the Badgers were finally able to take charge midway through the second half. Calvin Brock brought the Illini within 44-41 with just under 10 minutes to go before Wisconsin responded with consecutive 3-pointers from Jason Bohannon and Hughes. That sparked a 16-5 run over the next five minutes that put Wisconsin up 60-46, and Illinois wouldn’t threaten again.
Hughes played his best game since missing Wisconsin’s win at then-No. 9 Texas two weeks ago with a sprained ankle. The point guard had 11 points and five assists in Wisconsin’s wins over Michigan and Iowa, but he added five assists and six steals to his game-high 22 points Thursday.
He said he finally felt quicker than he had in the past two games, but the key was not trying to do too much.
“I just slowed it down a notch,” he said.
The Badgers shot 48 percent from the field, committed just nine turnovers and shot better than 72 percent from the free throw line, above their season average of 67 percent. But they were outrebounded 35-25.
Brock and Trent Meacham both had 14 points for Illinois, with Meacham hitting 4-of-5 from behind the 3-point arc. Illinois was 6-of-10 overall from 3-point range after coming into the game shooting just 28 percent from behind the arc.
While the Illini found their stroke from the outside, their post presence all but disappeared because of foul trouble. Shaun Pruitt was limited to 25 minutes and scored nine points, while Brian Randle scored four points and fouled out. The two combined to shoot 5-of-15 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds.
Randle had one particularly painful sequence on four straight Illinois possessions in which he missed an uncontested dunk, failed to convert a three-point play, jammed a second dunk attempt between the rim and backboard, and then had a third dunk attempt blocked by Greg Stiemsma.
“We’ve done all kinds of things,” Weber said. “We’ve just got to find a way to hang together and get a win.”