No matter how No. 23 Illinois made it look in the Big Ten Conference opener at Purdue in late December, life on the road in the Big Ten is no easy task. With a 63-50 loss at struggling Wisconsin on Thursday, Illinois lost for the fourth straight time on the road and the Purdue victory was a distant memory.
No matter how No. 23 Illinois made it look in the Big Ten Conference opener at Purdue in late December, life on the road in the Big Ten is no easy task.
With a 63-50 loss at struggling Wisconsin on Thursday, Illinois lost for the fourth straight time on the road and the Purdue victory was a distant memory.
Other trends also continued for the Illini. Despite facing a Wisconsin defense that struggled over the three previous games, the Illini shot 32.8 percent. Illinois fell behind 14 points in the first half while shooting 40 percent from the field and 11 percent from the 3-point line. It didn't get any better after halftime.
Sliding into a third-place tie with Minnesota, Penn State and Ohio State, the Illini began a tough stretch of three on the road in the next four games. In the process, they didn't look like a team ready to win away from Assembly Hall.
Illinois is the only team without a Big Ten home loss, and the Illini will attempt to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time this season. Illinois fell to 18-5 overall and 6-4 in the Big Ten before hosting No. 12 Purdue on Sunday (noon, CBS).
There's no reason to reach for the panic button -- the middle of the pack in the Big Ten was expected to be remarkably balanced -- but Illinois doesn't have the same threat on offense as it did before the last three games.
Illinois controlled Wisconsin for a seven-point victory at Assembly Hall on Jan. 24, when guard Demetri McCamey scored a season high 25 points while also dishing out seven assists. The Illini had nobody so special the second time around against the Badgers. Sophomore forward Mike Davis and McCamey played well, but they had little help.
Weakened recently by side effects from tonsilitis, Davis nevertheless played his best game in the Big Ten season. He finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double this season but first in Big Ten play. McCamey had 12 points.
Shooting guards Trent Meacham and Alex Legion couldn't get warmed up. Meacham was 3-for-9 while Legion was 1-for-8. Center Mike Tisdale was also cold, hitting 1-of-5. Guard Chester Frazier had 13 rebounds.
Wisconsin (13-9, 4-6) ended a six-game losing streak, its longest slide in 11 years.
The Illini grabbed an early 7-2 lead before the Badgers gained momentum. Wisconsin led 35-21 late in the first half and expanded the lead to 44-27 early in the second half.
Wisconsin guard Jason Bohannon hit his first six 3-point attempts and tied his career high with 20 points. Senior forward Marcus Landry had 16 points. Sophomore forward Jon Leuer found himself in the starting lineup when sophomore Keaton Nankivil suffered a sprained ankle, and Leuer took advantage by scoring 15 points.
Wisconsin entered the game as one of the worst defenses in the league, ranking ninth in Big Ten play by allowing 45.8 percent shooting. Over the previous three games, opponents shot 55.5 percent overall and 50 percent from the 3-point line against Wisconsin.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.