CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)—Despite a sluggish start, Wisconsin rallied to beat Illinois and move into a tie atop the Big Ten.
Trevon Hughes scored 18 points and Marcus Landry added 17 to help No. 11 Wisconsin beat Illinois 71-57 on Wednesday night and move into a tie with idle Purdue.
“The Big Ten, this is what it’s all about,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “Yeah, we would like a piece of the conference championship.”
The Badgers (22-4, 12-2) started to hit 3-pointers to end their early offensive struggles.
“We try not to focus on 3-pointers because you live by the three, you die by the three,” said forward Marcus Landry, who hit two 3-pointers. “When they’re open, you have to take them.”
Illinois’ loss guarantees the Illini (11-16, 3-11) their first losing season since 1999.
The Illini relied on senior center Shaun Pruitt, who had 16 points, and freshman guard Demetri McCamey—who scored 18, all in the second half and off the bench—for their offense.
Trailing 8-4, the Badgers’ Jason Bohannon, Michael Flowers and Hughes all hit 3-pointers over the next 7 minutes. By the time Bohannon hit the last of them from the baseline at 6:49, the Badgers had capped a 19-7 run and had a 23-15 lead.
“(Bohannon) stared them down and knocked them down,” Ryan said.
After that, Wisconsin never led by less than six, and with just over 7 minutes left in the game led by 16.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber said Bohannon’s two three-pointers during that stretch were “the backbreakers.”
The Badgers were 23-for-50 from the field Wednesday, including 7-for-14 from behind the arc.
What the Badgers didn’t take from the Illini with strong shooting, Illinois gave away by turning the ball over 20 times.
Wisconsin also shut down Pruitt in the second half. The 6-foot-10 center scored just 2 points after halftime.
“I was kind of in there just to get around and keep him from getting the ball,” the 6-7 Landry said. “I think he kind of got frustrated in the second half a little bit.”
Pruitt was hurt in part by the loss of forward Brian Randle, a 6-8 senior, who left the game with a sprained right shoulder early in the first half and didn’t return.
“It could be questionable for the rest of the season,” Weber said, adding that Randle may have to have surgery.
Earlier in the day Illinois lost sophomore center Brian Carlwell. The 6-11 sophomore, lost to injury since November, said he will leave the team and try to transfer to another school in the fall.