Illini fall flat, get ripped by Badgers 74-51
MADISON, Wis. — Seething after a lopsided loss, coach John Groce hinted at changes for No. 12 Illinois. The way the Illini played on Sunday, it might be time.
Jared Berggren scored 15 points and grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds, and Traevon Jackson added a career-best 14 points to lead Wisconsin to a 74-51 victory.
And afterward, Groce was fuming.
"I'm going to evaluate every guy, starting with competitive, physical, mental toughness type plays," he said.
The Badgers (12-4, 3-0 Big Ten) scored the game's first 14 points and led by 20 at halftime on the way to their sixth straight win.
It was a stunning performance from a team that scored just 47 in its previous game, against Nebraska, but a supposedly slow and methodical group locked into a higher gear and ended the suspense almost as soon as the game began.
Whether they were making 3-pointers, driving for layups, putting back misses or throwing down dunks, the Badgers had their way in this one. They outshot Illinois 49.1 percent to 35.3 percent, making 10 of 23 3-pointers, and outrebounded the Illini 43-24.
Berggren, a 6-foot-10 senior, had the first double-double of his career. Jackson eclipsed his previous high of 13 points, and Sam Dekker scored 13.
It was certainly not what Illinois (14-4, 1-3) envisioned coming off a 17-point loss to No. 8 Minnesota. The Illini have lost four of six after winning their first 12 under Groce.
"Their competitive spirit was better than ours to start the game," he said. "That is unacceptable. That is not what we're about."
Is he thinking about shaking up the rotation, changing the lineup?
"Everything's open at this point," Groce said.
The Illini set a season low for scoring, with star Brandon Paul managing just eight points and making 1 of 11 shots. Richardson scored 16, but Illinois never had a chance.
"It was our fault," the Illini's D.J. Richardson said. "Not to compete, it's the seniors' fault; it's the captains' fault. The coaches did a good job of giving us the right scouting report. We've got to execute when we're out there on the court."
The Badgers beat the Illini to loose balls. They attacked the glass and rebounded missed free throws, keeping possessions. On defense, they made the day miserable for Illinois.
With Jackson and Mike Bruesewitz guarding him, Paul never did find a rhythm.
"It wasn't his day," Bruesewitz said. "The things you've got to take from his (are) his open 3s. You can't let him get going early. He's really good with that runner off his right hand. So that was a big thing for me."
The Badgers led 39-19 at the break, with Jackson scoring 12 in the half after averaging just 4.7 points in the first 15 games. Berggren scored 11, including seven as Wisconsin took a 14-0 lead. His corner 3 and another shot from long range by Ben Brust capped that run. Paul gave Illinois its first point when he made 1 of 2 free throws with 13:13 left in the half, and Joseph Bertrand followed with a jumper to give the Illini their first basket.
But the Badgers scored 15 in a row and 18 of 20 to turn a nine-point edge into a 34-9 gulf, starting with three straight 3-pointers.
Sam Dekker buried one from the wing to get it going. Brust made one from well beyond the top of the arc, sending a roar through the stands, and Jackson followed with another one from up top after Berggren blocked a driving Paul.
"I think there are only two games of the 18 we've played where I felt like we got beat in competitive areas," Groce said. "You can say that's 16 for 18; that's that's 88 whatever percent. I don't think that way. We should have that all the time. We should have that all the time. Execution stuff, we can work on that. ... But it's unacceptable not to be physically and mentally tough. It's unacceptable not to play with passion and effort and energy."
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