MADISON, Wis. — Two hours before tipoff of Wednesday’s Big Ten tilt between No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 23 Illinois, the temperature in Wisconsin’s capital city was 1 below zero. Ticket scalpers braved the arctic air, negotiating prices with potential customers, not budging on their asking amount.
“Illinois fans are coming, that’s going to drive up the prices,” one was overheard saying.
There was a decent amount of orange inside the Kohl Center with the Grateful Red and the rest of the Wisconsin students still home for winter break, but many are probably wishing they hadn’t made the trip.
On the heels of a 20-0 run in which the Illini were as cold as the central Wisconsin air, missing all 13 shot attempts, the Badgers cruised to a 95-70 win, starting the season 16-0 for the first time in program history.
“I’m proud of the players. I’m proud of the team. I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished to this point, and try to keep this going,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “The players deserve the credit.”
For the Illini (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten), the 16-year-old Kohl Center continues to be a house of horrors. Illinois has lost 6 of 7 against Wisconsin inside its home arena, including four straight.
The 25-point margin of defeat was the worst in coach John Groce’s tenure at Illinois.
It can all be traced back to that 20-0 run by the Badgers and Illinois’ response, or lack thereof, to it.
“You’ve got to respond to adversity better than that. We have this season, but for some reason today, against a really good ball team that’s as explosive as they are, you can’t do that,” Groce said. “It’s very atypical of this team, something we take a lot of pride in. I didn’t like our look and body language during that stretch.”
Wisconsin put five players in double figures, led by Ben Brust (18 points, six rebounds) and Sam Dekker (17 points, six rebounds).
Rayvonte Rice (19 points) and Joseph Bertrand (18) each grabbed nine rebounds for the Illini, who were playing their first game of the season as a ranked team.
Whether it’s an upset win against the No. 1 team in the country, like Illinois did last year against Indiana, or a 25-point clobbering on the road like Wednesday’s game that saw Wisconsin fans hit the exits with 6:09 left and their team leading by 30, the key in Big Ten play is to forget about the last one and move on.
“You have to have amnesia,” Groce said. “But, you have to learn from it. It’s very important to learn from it. You can’t have a hangover; that’s a recipe for disaster. We’ve got confident guys, and they’ll respond. We’ve got great kids.”