GAME NOTES: The Wisconsin Badgers and Illinois Fighting Illini are set to square off in a Big Ten Conference showdown at Assembly Hall.
This marks the 190th meeting between Wisconsin and Illinois in a series dating back to 1906. The Illini lead the all-time series 110-78, with a 68-22 edge in Champaign. However, Wisconsin has won 11 of the last 15 meetings with Illinois, including four straight. UW has won in four of its last six trips to Assembly Hall, including last season's 67-63 win.
This will be the second encounter between these schools on the basketball court this season. The Badgers recorded a 74-51 rout of Illinois on Jan. 12, and will be aiming for the season sweep in this one.
Bo Ryan's Badgers are once again one of the best defensive squads in the nation. After holding the opposition to an Division I low of 53.2 ppg in 2011-12, Wisconsin is eighth in the national rankings with only 53.2 points allowed per tilt this season. The ability to frustrate and stifle an opponent was on display in its last appearance, as it held a very offensively balanced Ohio State squad to 58 points, but it fell to 14-7 overall and 5-3 in the conference standings after mustering only 49 points itself. The loss was the third in four games for Wisconsin, which will be returning home for a pair of games against Iowa and Michigan after its trip to Champaign.
Wisconsin has a very balanced offensive attack that features a handful of players capable of netting 10 points or more on any given night. Jared Berggren (11.9 ppg.), Ryan Evans (10.4 ppg.) and Ben Brust (10.3 ppg.) all contribute double figures offensively. Evans leads the team with 7.5 rebounds a game. Traevon Jackson netted a team-best 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the setback to the Buckeyes, but Evans had an off-night, going 1-of-10 from the floor for just two points.Coming off an 11-point, 9-rebound performance Tuesday at OSU, Berggren is looking for another big outing against Illinois on Sunday. Berggren is averaging 15.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in his last three games versus the Fighting Illini, including a double-double (15 pts, 12 rebs) in this season's earlier match-up.
John Groce got off to an incredible start in his first season at the helm of the Fighting Illini program, leading the team to 12 straight wins, including impressive triumphs over Butler (78-61), Georgia Tech (75-62), and Gonzaga (85-74). However, Illinois lost for the fifth time in six appearances on Thursday as it dropped an 80-75 decision to Michigan State in East Lansing. The setback sent Illinois to a 15-7 overall record, but just a 2-6 mark in Big Ten action.
Illinois looks to get back on the winning track at Assembly Hall after dropping its last three home games. The Illini have not lost four straight at home since the 2007-08 season. Groce's squad looked like it was on its way to an upset of the Spartans last time out as it held a 10-point halftime lead after hitting five 3-pointers and committing only one turnover in the opening 20 minutes. MSU surged back to steal the decision after the break, though. Illinois was led by Tracy Abrams's 16 points. D.J. Richardson added 14 points, while Brandon Paul netted 13. Paul is pacing the team with 17.6 ppg and is tied with sophomore center Nnanna Egwu for the rebounding lead with 4.7 caroms per tilt.
Illinois hit just 35.3 percent of its field-goal attempts and went 2-of-14 from 3-point range as it was blown out in its first bout with the Badgers this season. The Fighting Illini do not match up with Wisconsin very well, but their Big Ten leading total of 180 makes from beyond the arc gives them a shooter's chance against the stingy visitors.
Game Date and Time