Game 29 preview | No. 13 Illinois at Wisconsin; Noon, BTN

Mar. 2—Beat writer Scott Richey breaks down the matchup between the Illini and Badgers:


No. 13 Illinois (21-7, 12-5 Big Ten)


G/F Marcus Domask Gr. 6-6 15.5 Waupun, Wis.

G Terrence Shannon Jr. Sr. 6-6 21.9 Chicago

G/F Ty Rodgers So. 6-6 6.5 Saginaw, Mich.

F Quincy Guerrier Gr. 6-8 10.3 Montreal

F Coleman Hawkins Sr. 6-10 13.3 Sacramento, Calif.

FYI: Domask's 22 points in Wednesday's 105-97 win against Minnesota marked his seventh game with at least that many points this season. The Southern Illinois transfer had 10 games with at least 20 points in his final season with the Salukis. A record he could still match — or beat — this season with, at minimum, five games to play. Domask ranks fifth in the Big Ten in scoring in conference games at 18.2 points per game.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Justin Harmon Gr. 6-4 6.9 Chicago

F/C Dain Dainja R-Jr. 6-9 5.5 Brooklyn Park, Minn.

G Luke Goode Jr. 6-7 6.4 Fort Wayne, Ind.

Wisconsin (18-10, 10-7 Big Ten)


P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Chucky Hepburn Jr. 6-2 8.6 Omaha, Neb.

G Max Klesmit Jr. 6-4 9.7 Neenah, Wis.

G AJ Storr So. 6-7 16.2 Rockford

F Tyler Wahl Gr. 6-9 11.5 Lakeville, Minn.

F Steven Crowl Jr. 7-0 11.2 Eagan, Minn.

FYI: Hepburn's scoring is down from 12.2 points per game as a sophomore to 8.6 points this season. However, everything but his three-point shooting (down from 40.5 percent to 30.2 percent) has improved. Hepburn is a more efficient shooter overall, making a huge leap inside the three-point line, and is also averaging more rebounds, assists and steals and fewer turnovers than he has at any other point of his career.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G John Blackwell Fr. 6-4 7.9 Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

F Nolan Winter Fr. 6-11 2.8 Lakeville, Minn.

G Connor Essegian So. 6-4 3.4 Fort Wayne, Ind.


➜ Site: Kohl Center (17,287); Madison, Wis.

➜ Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Deon Thomas (analysis) will have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDWS 93.9-FM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WPXN 104.9-FM, WDAN-1490-AM and WDNL 102.1-FM.

➜ TV: Dave Revsine (play-by-play) and LaPhonso Ellis (analysis) will have the call on BTN.

➜ Series: Illinois leads 116-89.

➜ Last meeting: Illinois won 61-51 on Jan. 28, 2023, in Madison, Wis.

➜ FYI: Illinois has won six consecutive games against Wisconsin, including its last three on the Badges' home court. Notable considering the Illini went nearly a decade without beating Wisconsin — a string of 15 straight losses from 2011-19. The only streak longer in the series belonged to Illinois with 16 consecutive victories when the '80s belonged to the Illini.

Beat writer Scott Richey's storylines

Scoring off the bounce

Pick-and-pop three-pointers are still a staple in Coleman Hawkins' offensive arsenal. His ability on the perimeter helped him score 15 first-half points before finishing with 20 in Wednesday's 105-97 victory against Minnesota. But the versatile 6-foot-10 forward, who is second on the Illini in assists, is starting to create and score more off the bounce at this late juncture in the regular season. "We're putting him in space, which is really good," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "Most of that, for him, is based on matchups where he's very comfortable driving (against opposing bigs). He's very comfortable driving size. It's not where we're asking him to be at the top of the key and do some of the things we did a year ago facilitating offense and making passes and plays and reads. It's more downhill. When you're shooting it like he is, that paint gets pretty wide, and he gets pretty hard to guard."

Giving starters some rest

Any thoughts that Illinois' rotation might expand given the type of production the Illini got off the bench in its win last Saturday against Iowa were squelched Wednesday against Minnesota. It was a different seven-man rotation, with Dain Dainja replacing Luke Goode as the seventh, but still a seven-man rotation. Goode, Nico Moretti and Amani Hansberry played two minutes each in the first half against the Gophers and then sat out the second half. Former Illinois guard turned TV analyst Stephen Bardo still sees value in a deeper rotation. "Not necessarily from their production, but giving (the starters) a break," said Bardo, who was on the call for the Illinois-Minnesota game. "You saw a little fatigue at the end of the Penn State game from Coleman. If (the reserves) get consistent minutes, you can dial back some of the starters and they'll be fresher down the stretch. That will be a big key."

Storr no stranger to Illini

Wisconsin essentially ran back last year's team that finished 20-15 and lost to North Texas in the NIT semifinals. It's made for a lot of familiar faces in Madison, Wis., like Tyler Wahl, Steven Crowl and Chucky Hepburn. The only rotation player that didn't return to coach Greg Gard's program was Jordan Davis, who transferred to Illinois State this offseason. Replacing Davis? That would be one-time Illinois commit and St. John's transfer AJ Storr, who leads the Badgers in scoring at 16.2 points per game, is shooting 44 percent from the field and 82 percent from the free throw line. He also is averaging 3.8 rebounds, third on the team. "AJ gives them a different dimension than they've had," Underwood said. "They're more athletic with AJ. AJ's a special athlete, and he's kind of got the green light to shoot it whenever. He gets up (13 shots per game), and they're playing a little bit faster."

The News-Gazette's pick

No. 13 Illinois 93, Wisconsin 86

The Badgers are 13-2 at home this season, with the only losses coming against Top 10 teams Purdue and Tennessee. The Badgers are also averaging 78.2 points per game on 50 percent shooting at the Kohl Center this season. All positives for Greg Gard and Co. when trying to pick up a ranked win Saturday against Illinois. The flip side? Wisconsin went 2-6 in February, and Illinois had the No. 1 offense in the country in that same span. The Badgers might be more effective offensively at home, but the Illini have shown they can outscore just about everybody. (N-G prediction record: 23-4)