Wisconsin 75, Illinois 63 — FINAL
CHAMPAIGN — With 4,185 in the stands because of Tuesday's winter snow storm, Rayvonte Rice (nine rebounds) scored a game-high 24 points but it wasn't enough as Wisconsin left State Farm Center with a win, extending Illinois' losing streak to eight.
It's the longest losing streak for an Illinois team since the 1973-74 Illini lost 11 straight.
Joseph Bertrand added 11 points and Nnanna Egwu scored 10 for the Illini (13-10, 2-8 Big Ten).
Wisconsin had four players reach double figures in scoring, led by Sam Dekker and Ben Brust, who scored 16 points apiece.
Nigel Hayes and Traevon Jackson (seven rebounds) each scored 14. Josh Gasser scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Badgers (18-5, 5-5).
More later on HQ.
Wisconsin 46, Illinois 42 — 11:35 second half
Seven of Illinois' first nine points of the half were scored by Rayvonte Rice. Jon Ekey had the other bucket. The Illini went on a 7-0 run to cut Wisconsin's 10-point lead to 42-39. The actual attendance here is 4,185.
Gene Steratore told John Groce to keep assistant Paris Parham quiet. Steratore, who doubles as an NFL referee, wasn't having it.
After seeing Wisconsin continue to beat the Illini on the glass and to loose balls, Dustin Ford got after his team pretty fiercely in the huddle at the under-16 timeout. His face turned bright red.
Tracy Abrams was all over Traevon Jackson on a defensive possession, as tight as you can get. Probably should have been called for a foul. John Groce had to relax Abrams a bit.
The Orange Krush didn't like a foul call against Kendrick Nunn and began chanting "(Bull droppings!)"
Nunn was called for three fouls in one possession.
Illinois football coach Tim Beckman is seated in A-section behind me. He was on our radio show at Esquire yesterday and he was pretty good.
Illinois signee Michael Finke is here with some friends and his family.
The under-12 timeout for Illinois is much more calm than the under-16 timeout was.
Wisconsin 36, Illinois 30 — Halftime
Kendrick Nunn continues to impress and he's gotten so much better as the season wears on. That being said, he's made a couple of mistakes, normal with freshmen. Those are the things John Groce talks about when he mentions inconsistency.
Jon Ekey shot an airbag midway through the half. He had one late in Saturday's game when he was dealing with cramps.
"Sit down and be nasty," John Groce said to his defense.
Rayvonte Rice has been a monster on the boards. He had six midway through the half.
Someone told official Steve McJunkins to "Give your whistle up!" after Malcolm Hill was called for a moving screen.
A young man named Connor made a layup, free throw and three-pointer in less than 45 seconds. The pre-teen won his parents $500 in tires.
"Bo wears Crocs," an Illinois fan yelled at the Wisconsin coach during a free throw.
Tracy Abrams up on the Illinois bench when he's not in the game barking instructions to his teammates right there with the coaches.
On the court, he's helping, too. "Box his (butt) out!" Abrams yelled during a Wisconsin free throw.
Solid half for Nnanna Egwu. The big man has eight points.
Abrams also has eight and and Rice has six.
Illinois shot 44 percent (11 for 25) from the floor and 33 percent (1 for 3) from long range. The Illini went 7 for 9 (77.8 percent) from the stripe.
Wisconsin shot 47.8 percent (11 for 23) from the floor and 4 for 11 (36.4 percent) from the floor. Wisconsin was 10 for 13 (76.9 percent) from the free throw line.
Wisconsin won the rebounding battle 15-13.
Nigel Hayes has 10 points, Ben Brust has eight and Sam Dekker has seven. Frank Kaminsky was scoreless, but grabbed five rebounds.
Wisconsin 14, Illinois 11 — 11:31 first half
At the first media timeout, public address announcer Tim Sinclair thanked the fans for braving the weather and invited them to fill in the seats in the lower levels.
B-Section still isn't full, but it's a good turnout considering what's happening outside.
I'm holding firm at 3,500. A-B sections hold about 6,000 and it's not close to being full.
Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill went to check in less than three minutes into the game. Those guys were outstanding on Saturday.
Nunn has continued his good play, at least on the offensive end. He's given up at least one three on defense and another layup.
Nice job by Tracy Abrams defensively. He was guarding Frank Kaminsky, an old AAU teammate, in the post and managed to get a steal while giving up 10 inches.
Something happened on the first possession of the gem before Nnanna Egwu got hit in the face with a pass in the paint. "It was wide open, didn't deliver," Groce said.
An effort's been made to get the ball in the post to Egwu. His shot is a little bit off here in the early going.
Tracy Abrams has five points. Three other Illini have two apiece.
Wisconsin (17-5, 4-5) at Illinois (13-9, 2-7) — TIPOFF (BTN)
Spoke with Illinois AD Mike Thomas a bit ago. He told me the rule of thumb, wherever he's been, is that as long as both teams and the game officials can make it to the game, the show goes on. So, there was co consideration in postponing tonight's game.
Steve McJunkins, Mike Sanzere and Gene Steratore, your officials, are here. So are both teams.
Illinois starts Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu.
Wisconsin goes with Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, Josh Gaesser, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky.
There are way more people here than I thought there would be. I'm guessing about 6,000 at tipoff. Good showing.
The Orange Krush was expected to have towels tonight. That got pushed back to Feb. 15 against Ohio State because of the weather.
They had newspapers during the starting lineups, though.
Wisconsin (17-5, 4-5) at Illinois (13-9, 2-7) — 8 p.m. BTN
Both teams are on the floor for warmups 30 minutes before tipoff here and there might be more people in shorts and jerseys on the floor than there are people in the stands.
I'd guestimate there are fewer than 1,000 folks here right now, though the Krush looks like it has filled its 500-plus allotment of seats around the floor.
I'm holding firm at the 3,500 guess for the crowd here tonight. I'm told we'll be given an official number, so that's much appreciated.
Two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North is here with the Badgers. North has filled in occasionally on the Wisconsin radio broadcasts and he's a friend of their athletic department.
Aaron Cosby will take his usual spot on the Illinois bench tonight. The Seton Hall transfer was absent for the Iowa game. He hurt himself in the weight room last week, though he's expected to be OK. John Groce chuckled a little bit about the injury yesterday. We'll have some info on that in tomorrow's courage.
Your regular public address announcer Mike Cation is not her tonight. Tim Sinclair, who does UI women's basketball, will be on the mic tonight. Tim did a game earlier this season for the men, I believe it was Valparaiso.
Wisconsin's strength and conditioning coach is wearing shorts right now. I'm not going to question his wardrobe to his face. He'd squish me.
Spoke to Shon Morris of the Big Ten Network a little bit ago. The former Northwestern big man is impressed with what his alma mater has done, changing its style of play, leading to five wins in the first half of the Big Ten slate. NU tried to run early. They're not equipped for that.
"You can't put a clydesdale in the Kentucky Derby," he said.
How has Illinois handled this losing steak? With a positive outlook, according to Abrams.
"We're all helping each other out. We understand the position we're in, we just have to keep fighting out of it," Abrams said. "I think guys are doing a great job as far as being positive. Nobody's being negative even though we're going through a rough stretch."
Wisconsin (17-5, 4-5) at Illinois (13-9, 2-7) — 8 p.m. BTN
Good evening from the warm, dry friendly confines of State Farm Center. If you're out and about or plan on going out tonight, be safe. It's ugly out there and it's only getting worse.
I spoke with McKennon Biers from the Orange Krush and he's expecting a good showing from the student cheering section. They had a gathering over at Memorial Stadium before the game and he said attendance was good.
Kent Brown, the sports information director, says he will provide us with a turnstile attendance figure tonight. My early guess will be 3,500. I believe it was a Penn State game a few years back when the crowd was affected drastically by the weather and it was announced during the game that classes the following day would be canceled.
As cold and dreary as it is outside, these respective programs are suffering through cold patches of their own. Illinois, as you well know, has lost seven straight. Wisconsin, once ranked third in the country, has lost five of six and dropped out of the AP poll. The Badgers are still ranked 24th in the Coaches' poll. We honor the AP poll around here.
I picked a Wisconsin win here tonight, but based on how well Illinois played after the brutal start to that loss to Iowa the other night, I wouldn't be surprised to see an Illinois win. They really dod look good for stretches in that game.
They're trying to build off it.
"We definitely know we've got to bring that same effort again," Tracy Abrams said. "Just do what we can, stay composed with that kind of effort and let those things play out."
Illinois got blown out the last time it played Wisconsin, but played the Badgers even in the second half after trailing 50-25 at the half.
"They made a lot of shots early. I don't think we were playing our defense like we know we could. We lost a couple guys in transition and that really hurt us. If we get them stopped in transition and limit a couple of their threes, we'll be better," Joseph Bertrand said. "We were shooting the ball quick in the first half and that gave them easy chances for rebounds, we weren't moving around as much as we needed to."
Just spoke with Wisconsin director of basketball operations Luke Wainwright. He says the plan is for the Badgers to be able to get out of town tonight. Their plane hasn't made it back to Savoy, but everything appears to be a go to get back to Madison.
Doors just opened and only members of the Orange Krush are here now.