When the Illinois Fighting Illini suit up against the Wisconsin Badgers on Monday night, it’ll be the 129th meeting between the two sides. It might be an occasion worth celebrating, especially if the Illini win: Illinois has never faced an opponent as many times in its history as it has against Wisconsin.
The Illini own the all-time series 74-54 — a winning percentage of .578 against a rival is pretty good. What’s less than ideal is the current winning steak the Badgers have over the Illini: 14 straight games, a streak that started back in January 2011.
To make matters worse, nine of those 14 losses were by at least 10 points.
The last time Illinois beat Wisconsin
January 2, 2011. No. 23 Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the unranked Wisconsin Badgers 69-61 in Champaign. Wisconsin’s top player that season was senior forward Jon Leuer, who scored 19 points in the game. Leuer would go on to earn First Team All-Big Ten honors and was named a John Wooden Award Finalist.
The Illini were led by point guard Demetri McCamey and his 21 points and seven assists. He went to the free throw line 15 times (11-of-15) and had more free throw attempts than all of the Badgers players combined.
The Illini were up the entire second half despite Wisconsin taking care of the ball — the Badgers had just three turnovers in the game.
What’s Happened to Wisconsin and Illinois since they last played on January 23? A lot.
Wisconsin: The Badgers are 4-2, coming off recent back-to-back losses to Michigan State and Michigan. Wisconsin easily won games it was supposed to (vs. Northwestern, at Nebraska) after beating Illinois last month.
Against the Illini, Wisconsin star Ethan Happ did not have his best game — but in a way, he still controlled it with his rebounding and passing. Happ is still Wisconsin’s leader in pretty much every statistical category.
“Illinois is playing with house money... no one wants to play them” — BTN Basketball Analyst and Illinois Basketball Alum Steve Bardo
Consistency. Giorgi had a very good game against Wisconsin a month ago, putting up 20 points and eight rebounds. He was the only Illini with more than two field goal attempts who shot over 50 percent from the field. On the night, Illinois shot just 35 percent from the field.
Ayo Dosunmu has improved by leaps and bounds in the six games since he went 0-5 from the three point line against Wisconsin. He’s more confident and more of an outside shooting threat. His defense has picked up tremendously and he thrives when he’s challenged to defend the opposing team’s best guard.
Trent Frazier has been playing the smartest basketball of his young career. Unlike last year, Frazier picks his spots — he can afford to because he has Dosunmu and Andres Feliz right there to pick him up when his shot’s not falling or he’s out of rhythm. Feliz and Dosunmu are very good defenders, and that allows Frazier more leeway when it comes to getting out in transition.
All Streaks Must Come To An End
Considering how many times Illinois and Wisconsin play (two or three times a year, depending on scheduling and Big Ten Tournament seeding) it’s head-scratching to think it’s been 14 times since the Illini have triumphed over the Badgers.
In football (nine straight wins) and in basketball, Illinois’ neighbors to the north and Big Ten West rivals have simply owned the the Illini.
Will it end Monday?
This may be the Illini’s last chance of the decade. Let’s hope it does.
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