MADISON, Wis. (AP)—There hasn’t been a whole lot to chuckle about for Wisconsin’s basketball program lately.
But after breaking a six-game losing streak with a 63-50 victory over No. 23 Illinois on Thursday night, some of the Badgers had a little fun at Jason Bohannon’s expense.
Sure, Bohannon was the biggest reason the Badgers won for the first time in a long time, going 6-of-7 from 3-point range and scoring 20 points. But he’ll still have a hard time living down a missed dunk in the second half.
“I always tell him he can’t jump anyway,” teammate Marcus Landry said. “I don’t know why he even tried that. I guess he thought he was flying high today, so he tried. He could have had 22.”
Acrobatic missteps aside, Bohannon broke out of a recent shooting slump for the Badgers (13-9, 4-6 Big Ten), hitting his first six 3-point attempts until missing with 5:55 left in the game. Badgers coach Bo Ryan called Bohannon’s performance “a block in the construction process.”
Bohannon was 6-for-19 from the field in the Badgers’ previous three games.
“We thought sooner or later, Bohannon would get going,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “We were hoping it wasn’t against us.”
Mike Davis scored 14 points to lead Illinois (18-5, 6-4), which has lost two of its last three and is stuck in a shooting slump. The Illini finished 4-for-21 from 3-point range.
“We missed a lot of open shots,” Weber said. “It’s been like that for a while.”
The Badgers’ losing streak ended against the conference’s stingiest scoring defense. Illinois came into the game giving up an average of 56.6 points, best in the Big Ten and fourth-best in Division I.
And it came without Wisconsin starting forward Keaton Nankivil, who sat out with a lower leg injury he sustained in practice. Jon Leuer made his first start in Nankivil’s place and continued his strong offensive season, adding 15 points. Landry had 16.
“That was a tough stretch there,” Bohannon said of the losing streak. “There were a lot of games there where we were right in it and didn’t pull it out. We (found) a lot of ways of how not to play basketball.”
Bohannon’s sixth 3-pointer put the Badgers ahead 44-27 with 16:56 left in the game.
But Illinois cut the deficit to 10 with a 7-0 run that included a jumper and 3-pointer by Demetri McCamey, a basket by Dominique Keller—and the missed dunk by the 6-foot-2 Bohannon after he grabbed a loose ball on Illinois’ end of the court.
But the Badgers answered with a long outlet pass from Trevon Hughes to set up an easy layup for Landry and a 3-pointer by backup guard Jordan Taylor— while Illinois’ Alex Legion shot an airball and was called for traveling on consecutive possessions.
It was the continuation of a recent outside shooting lull for the Illini, who are putting together a surprising season but struggled in their last two games going into Thursday night.
Illinois was blown out at Minnesota last week and didn’t look particularly sharp in a home victory over Iowa on Sunday.
“Tonight, they had easy run-outs, we didn’t box out a little bit, and the shots weren’t falling,” McCamey said. “You can’t have all three of those things go bad if your shots (are) not falling or you’re not playing good defense.”
The Badgers, who won the Big Ten title and tournament last season but came into Thursday’s game having lost six straight—most recently a loss at Northwestern on Saturday.
But it’s not like Wisconsin has been blown out in the majority of its losses. The Badgers held the lead in the final 3 minutes of regulation in five of their last seven losses going into Thursday, but were unable to close out a win.