LIVE! Wisconsin

LIVE! Wisconsin

CHAMPAIGN — Trent Frazier did just about all he could Thursday night. The Illinois freshman guard made 7 of 11 three-pointers and set a new career high with 32 points.

But success or failure for the Illini was going to hinge in no small part on the type of looks Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ got against the Illinois defense.

The game plan for the Illini heading into the game? Make Happ’s touches as tough as possible. The sheer number of possessions the ball either starts or finishes in his hands means that’s a necessity in trying to slow Wisconsin down.

Illinois didn’t make it happen.

Happ had 16 points by halftime, feasting on a near endless string of open looks around the basket, and finished with 27 points in a 78-69 Wisconsin victory in front of 13,062 fans at State Farm Center. The win gives the Badgers the two-game sweep this season and stands as their 13th straight in the series.

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Wisconsin 42, Illinois 39 — 15:36 left in 2nd half

Remember when Illinois missed 10 straight shots late in the first half? Well, the Illini are at it again. Illinois hasn't scored in the last 2 1/2 minutes after missing five straight shots. Meanwhile, Wisconsin still remains the "Ethan Happ Show" early in the second half. He has a game-high 20 points, and after not pulling down a single rebound in the first half (I couldn't believe it when Loren Tate pointed that out to me at halftime) Happ has four boards now.

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Wisconsin 36, Illinois 33 — Halftime

Illinois made just two of its last 13 shots in the first half. That one of those was a three-pointer by Trent Frazier (giving him 10 points for the game) means the Illini trail by just three at the break. A few things of note ...

— Ethan Happ is 7 of 10 from the field and has 16 points. The rest of the Badgers are 4 of 13 for 20 points. Seems like slowing Happ down (i.e. not giving him such easy looks in the second half as he got in the first) wouldn't be a terrible idea.

— Frazier and Leron Black (seven points) are the only Illini who have made more than one shot tonight. They have three makes apiece.

— Illinois is rebounding better than it did against Ohio State. The Illini hold a 16-15 advantage and, most importantly to Brad Underwood, have seven offensive rebounds. They had just five in a full game at Ohio State.

To social media!

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Wisconsin 29, Illinois 25 — 3:57 left in 1st half

Ethan Happ has actually missed his last two layups. The first Wisconsin was able to turn into a three-pointer after securing the offensive rebound. Illinois rebounded the second miss, but the fact Happ drove through the entirety of the Illini defense to get the look was, as they say, not ideal.

Meanwhile, Illinois hasn't made a shot in the last 3 minutes, 40 seconds with five straight misses. Not an 11 1/2 minute scoreless streak like Sunday at Ohio State, but the Illini are not running great offense at the moment.

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Illinois 24, Wisconsin 20 — 7:18 left in 1st half

Sometimes our website likes to log me out just for kicks. If I just assume things are OK, I don't notice that an update I posted at the 11:56 mark didn't actually make it online. All you missed was a bunch of things about Ethan Happ.

Four minutes later, they still apply. Happ leads all scorers with 12 points. He's gotten them on three layups, a dunk and a baby hook. For a guy that isn't exactly a shooter, giving him looks like that isn't exactly ideal.

But the Illini are leading. Somehow. Partly because the rest of the Badgers are struggling. Partly because Trent Frazier and Michael Finke both hit important three-pointers.

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Illinois vs. Wisconsin — 8 p.m., BTN

A few quick notes as tipoff approaches here at State Farm Center ...

— No change to Illinois starters, as the Illini will go with Trent Frazier, Mark Alstork and Kipper Nichols in the backcourt and Leron Black and Michael Finke up front.

— Wisconsin's starters are also as expected: Brad Davison, Khalil Iverson, Aleem Ford, Nate Reuvers and Ethan Happ.

— Speaking of Happ. Still not a shooter. Just watched him brick multiple free throws during warmups.

— Illinois is wearing its home whites tonight. I was basically admonished on Twitter by someone I don't know for continuing to refer to them as the "rebranded" look four years after the rebrand happened. I'll continue to do it. The Badgers are in red.

— Tonight's officials are D.J. Carstensen, Pat Driscoll and Tom Eades.

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Illinois vs. Wisconsin — 8 p.m, BTN

The Illini didn't have to worry about closing out the game the last time they faced Wisconsin. The Badgers' lead was insurmountable by that point. But close games have littered Illinois' schedule this season, and the Illini have found themselves on the wrong end of those games more often than not. Way more often.

"It’s a topic of our conversations almost every single day," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said about closing out games. "It’s a challenge. We try to shoot free throws in pressure packed situations with consequences. We try to shoot free throws when they’re tired. We try to understand it’s about being solid. It’s about running good offense. It’s doing your job — you just being accountable.

"I think we have a locker room of guys who all want to win. At the end of the day do we expect to win? Great question for them. I think that comes from confidence. We’ve got a locker room with nobody that’s been to an NCAA tournament. They don’t know how to win at the level I want to win at."

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Illinois vs. Wisconsin — 8 p.m., BTN

The way Illinois played in the first 10 minutes against Ohio State? Yeah, Brad Underwood would like to see more of that from his team.

"The first 10 minutes of that ball game the other night, that was a clinic offensively," the Illini coach said. "What I’m trying to get our guys to understand is you’ve got to do it for 40 minutes. ... We got the ball reversed and turned and whatever we wanted the first 10 minutes. We had Ohio State guessing."

Then Illinois went away from it all. Didn't get the ball in the paint — either through entry passes to Leron Black or through dribble penetration. Didn't use the shot clock that well either. Underwood likes shots early in the clock (think seven seconds or less) or late in the clock to make the opposing defense work.

"It’s about allowing the defense to mess up sometimes," Underwood said. "When you’re going so well, why stop doing that? That’s what we do. We get impatient."

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Illinois vs. Wisconsin — 8 p.m., BTN

Mark Alstork put up a near double-double the last time Illinois played Wisconsin with nine points and 10 rebounds. His next two games weren't nearly as productive — not even close — but the Wright State transfer has put up double-digit points in the next two games after that. His 19-point performance in Sunday's loss at Ohio State stands as his season (and Illini career) high.

"Mark’s playing with great confidence," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "His activity has been tremendous, and he’s been unbelievable all year on the ball. Now he’s taking really good shots. He’s not trying to take guarded shots.

"I hope (Alstork’s shooting provides) space on the floor. We’re fighting for space. When you’re shooting almost 55 percent from the two and second in the league. Just think what space would give us making threes and what that could come to."

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Illinois is back home after a brief foray back on the road and so is the LIVE! Report with the first rematch of the 2017-18 Big Ten season. The Illini played one of their worst games of the year last month in losing 75-50 at Wisconsin. The argument can be made — and fairly due to margin of defeat — it was the worst game in Brad Underwood's first season at the Illinois helm.

So what's in store for the Illini (12-12, 2-9 Big Ten) in their second shot at the Badgers? It all depends on which team shows up.

If it's the group that pulled ahead for a 15-point lead through the first 10 minutes Sunday at Ohio State, then Wisconsin (10-15, 3-9) is in trouble. If it's the group that then proceeded not to score for the next 11 1/2 minutes against the Buckeyes, then Illinois could find itself right back in the same situation it faced in Madison.

Wisconsin has won 12 straight games in the series. The last Illinois coach to beat the Badgers was Bruce Weber. That's right, John Groce never managed it, and so far Underwood is 0-1. But if there was a Wisconsin team to beat, it's this one that will snap the Badgers' streak of top four Big Ten finishes and close out the year near the bottom of the conference instead.

It's another 8 p.m. tip here at State Farm Center, so in-game LIVE! Report updates will be sporadic, but IlliniHQ.com is still your place for Illinois hoops coverage before, during and — with the late tip — especially after the game with some online-only extras coming your way.

Until things get going, though, catch up on all things Illinois basketball so far this week ...

Lineups, storylines and the beat writer's pick

Offer out to 2020 forward with Chicago ties

Three different scenarios for how the Illini could finish this season

Back on the market, Illinois targets Bloomington star again

Post play still the occasional question mark for the Illini

Find out what happened during this week's Illinois basketball chat

Illini get second chance after 'shellacking'

CHAMPAIGN — Trent Frazier had an almost visceral reaction when recalling what he and his Illinois teammates were feeling when they watched the game film from what Illini coach Brad Underwood called a 75-50 "shellacking" at Wisconsin last month.

The Badgers ran what amounted to a layup line offense in their 25-point victory. Superior ball movement created those opportunities — opportunities Illinois struggled to slow down.

"Everything was so lackadaisical," Frazier said. "That game didn't show who we really were. Guys weren't getting back. We didn't play defense. We didn't help each other out. A lack of focus is what I think it really was."

Veteran guard Mark Alstork didn't pull any punches either.

"It was pathetic," Alstork said of the loss to the Badgers. "Our energy level as a group wasn't there. We didn't fight. We didn't show our defensive abiltiies. We didn't do what we do."

Illinois gets a second chance against Wisconsin with an 8 p.m. tip today State Farm Center. The loss to the Badgers remains fresh — a feeling reinforced by the prep for the rematch.

To continue reading, click here. Then keep coming back to IlliniHQ.com for more Illinois basketball gamday coverage.

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Moonpie wrote on February 09, 2018 at 11:02 am

And they lose yet again, but probably one of those vaunted Gazoo moral victories because they weren't pounded by 25 points.

We. Will. Win.

Final Four, baby!