MADISON, Wi. (WCIA) — Illinois beats Wisconsin for the second time this season on the road. The Illini defeated the Badgers 61-51.
Illinois already beat Wisconsin at home earlier this season 79-69. Illinois is now 6-4 in Big Ten Conference play.
Illinois and Wisconsin combined to shoot just 25 percent from the field in the first half, in one of the lowest scoring periods of basketball fans at the Kohl Center will probably ever witness, but the Illini were able to find their footing in the second, riding a career high 26 points from Matthew Mayer to another double digit victory.
“For me personally it’s just up to the individual to just stay locked in,” Matthew Mayer said. “I kinda like tune a lot of things out, there’s a big crowd, coach’s yelling, all that stuff.”
“He lets you know,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “When Matt’s going, we’ve seen this in practice, he is scary.”
“When Matt starts saying stuff like, ‘They can’t guard me’ or ‘I have such and such on me’, then you know give Matt the ball,” Illinois guard Jayden Epps said. “He’s about to start cooking.”
Both the Badgers and Illini were missing their star for most of the first. Terrence Shannon played six minutes while Tyler Wahl only played five, neither with any points. For Illinois, it was Dain Dainja keeping the offense afloat, scoring nearly half of its first period points.
“When the ball’s not going in, I felt like we really did a good job in the first half with our defense,” Dainja said. “With our past practices we had, we had really good practices defensively. I felt like we were ready.”
“Holding them to 18 percent was a start,” Underwood said. “Withstanding a home team’s run and the 17,000 or whatever this place holds, withstanding that energy, that’s major league growth for us and I’m excited about that.”
“Like the losses that we had, I could see it coming,” Mayer said. “Coach Underwood did such a good job responding and changing everything for us so that we could get back on track.”
Illinois moves into a tie for fourth place at 6-4 in the Big Ten, a far cry from when they started 0-3 in league play. Attention turns back to the State Farm Center as the Illini begin the second half of conference play hosting Nebraska on Tuesday.
Watch the postgame press conference with Illinois head coach Brad Underwood here: