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Wisconsin basketball: Badgers escape with 72-60 road win over Illinois

It was not pretty. It could have gotten uglier, but inside the State Farm Center on Wednesday night, the Wisconsin Badgers pulled out a 72-60 road victory against Illinois on Wednesday night.

Sophomore forward Nate Reuvers again showed his continued progression, recording his first career double-double with a career-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 10 rebounds for Wisconsin (13-6, 5-3 Big Ten). Like his performance against Maryland over a week ago, he scored six points in a key 9-3 run during a second half stretch with Ethan Happ out of the game due to foul trouble.

Happ scored just nine points—the only starter to not hit double figures for Wisconsin—but also snagged nine rebounds and dished out six assists. Redshirt sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice made four of nine field goals, two of four from three-point range, on way to 16 points. He also hit on all six free throws.

Senior forward Khalil Iverson registered nine of his 12 points in the first half while also grabbing seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Brad Davison recorded 10 points in the win as well.

The Badgers overcame 17 turnovers overall and foul trouble in the second half as they shot 51.1 percent (24-of-47) from the field, including hitting seven of 14 from three-point range.

Wisconsin held Illinois (5-14, 1-7) to 35.5 percent shooting on the evening (22-of-62) and only allowed their opponents to connect on four of 21 three-pointers. However, true freshman forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili lit up the Badgers for a team-high 20 points with eight rebounds. Only one other Illini player scored in double figures, as guard Aaron Gordon tallied 10 points on just 2-of-10 shooting.

Freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu scored only eight points, hitting on four of 16 shots from the field and missing all five three-point attempts. Sophomore guard Trent Frazier also struggled, recording nine points and shot 30 percent for the game.

The first half showcased a mix of highs and lows for Wisconsin. Starting off the game hitting its first seven shots, UW also committed nine turnovers and eventually cooled off to shoot 46.2 percent (12-of-26) from the field. Illinois converted on those turnovers by scoring nine points off of them, but could not capitalize further. The Illini only connected on 13 of 36 attempts (36.1 percent), two of 14 from three-point range, in the first half.

In the second half, the fouls called on Wisconsin piled up early, allowing Illinois to get into the double-bonus with 13:33 on redshirt sophomore forward Aleem Ford’s third foul of the game.

After Happ was called for his fourth foul—a Flagrant 1 hook-and-hold with 9:37 left in the game that sent him to the bench—Illinois tied the game at 49-49 after two Jordan free throws.

As seen against Maryland, Wisconsin responded with the All-American on the bench. The Illini received possession and had an opportunity to take the lead, but Davison drew a charge to send it the other way.

The sophomore guard missed a layup on the next possession, but Reuvers picked up the offensive board and put it back in the basket to regain the lead at 51-49. The sophomore forward scored six consecutive points for Wisconsin and even assisted on a Brevin Pritzl three-pointer at the 7:03 mark—giving the Badgers an eight-point advantage at 58-50.

Happ re-entered the game with 4:56 remaining, but that 9-3 run in his absence gave Wisconsin a hint of breathing room that would later extend to a dozen points. Illinois would not pull closer than eight points in the final 3:39 of the game.

Despite being in the bonus and double bonus for a significant portion of the second half, Brad Underwood’s squad only hit on 10 of 18 from the free throw line and only shot 34.6 percent (9-of-26) from the field in the final 20 minutes.

Wisconsin shot 57.1 percent (12-of-21) in the second half, including three of four from three-point range. The team also connected on 13 of 16 free throws in that frame (81.3 percent)—17 of 21 (81 percent) overall in the win. Happ also made three of his four attempts from the line.

Trice capped Wisconsin’s scoring with four free throws in the final 42 seconds to give the program its 14th straight win over Illinois.

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