Call it Illinois' biggest win of the post-Dee Brown era, not to mention the best sign yet the Illini belong in the NCAA Tournament.
Illinois barged into the snowbound Kohl Center - where 11th-ranked Wisconsin hadn't lost to an unranked Big Ten foe in 10 years and 11 days - and pulled off a 63-56 victory Tuesday night.
"We just wanted to come prove that we can beat the best on their home court," said junior point guard Demetri McCamey, who dominated the game with 27 points and 7 assists.
Coupled with Purdue's win at Michigan State, Illinois (17-8, 9-3) suddenly shares first place in the Big Ten with the Spartans.
Not bad company for a team that started the night No. 72 in the RPI rankings. Since road wins are more than twice as valuable as home wins in the RPI formula, the Illini should skyrocket into the NCAA Tournament at-large argument.
"This made up for a lot," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "Now we're in the race. We're in the race for a lot of things. But we have six very hard games."
For the first 12 minutes, the Illini made this game look very hard as well.
Wisconsin led by 11 points before Illinois figured out how to defeat the Badgers' helping man-to-man defense. Eschewing the motion offense, McCamey and Mike Tisdale confounded Wisconsin with endless pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops at the top of the key.
Illinois hit 10 baskets in the final 8:11 of the first half, including 8 straight shots going into the break, as McCamey drilled 6 shots and delivered assists to Tisdale and Tyler Griffey for the other 4.
"I told the guys ahead of time, 'If you run ball screens in space, it's one part of their defense they have trouble with,' " Weber said. "We were able to execute against them and get some things. Demetri made the good reads and got it to Tisdale."
McCamey stayed hot in the second half, but Wisconsin senior Jason Bohannon matched him with three 3-pointers and 13 points. The Illini didn't take the lead for good until freshman D.J. Richardson hit a 12-foot pull-up jumper with 3:59 to go.
"Once they showed on ball screens and started stopping 'Tiz' on the pick-and-pop," McCamey said, "we designed a play for D.J. to get the ball."
Illinois stopped Wisconsin (18-6, 8-4) on eight consecutive possessions to end the Badgers' 18-game Kohl winning streak.
The Illini wound up hitting 53.3 percent of their shots - Wisconsin's worst showing of the season - while holding the Badgers to 36 percent shooting.