MADISON, Wis. (WCIA) — Is this the night Illinois basketball breaks the streak? The Illini (10-5, 2-2 B1G) have lost 15 straight games to Wisconsin, including eight consecutive games at the Kohl Center, their last win in Madison was 2010. Overall since 1991, Illinois is 4-22 when playing at Wisconsin.
It’s not just against the Badgers (9-5, 2-1 B1G), the Illini have struggled on the road in head coach Brad Underwood’s tenure. Just 2-18 in conference road games overall. It’s something the now third year head coach says needs to change for the program to take another step forward.
“It’s not easy,” Underwood said on Tuesday. “It sounds really easy, like, ‘Hey, just go win on the road’ but it’s overcoming adversity, it’s handling challenges, and that’s where we’ve got to continue to get better, and fight at. We had a chance, we gave ourselves a chance at Maryland, and I’m expecting that same kind of effort, every single night we step on the court in an opponent’s venue.”
Defense was the name of the game in the team’s most recent win over Purdue, a dominant 63-37 victory. Carrying that over to the road is a high priority for the Illini against the Badgers, who feature a balanced low tempo scoring attack.
“Being versatile, being able to guard the bigs who post up and go inside, and trying to kill you from the inside area,” Illinois sophomore forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili said about the defensive game plan against Wisconsin. “Now that they have the shooters, we have to be able to step out and defend them on the three point line, and we definitely can do that.”
“I thought we’ve done a great job with that this year, with our defense, and we’re playing hard,” Illinois junior guard Trent Frazier said. “We’re shutting guys down that we want not to score, so everyone’s locked in right now.”
Illinois and Wisconsin tip at 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. The Badgers are 4.5-point favorites.