The Fighting Illini last saw the Badgers less than a month ago at the State Farm Center on Jan. 23. But a lot has changed since Illinois’ 72-60 defeat in its last encounter with Wisconsin, and this match up at the vaunted Kohl Center promises to be much more competitive.
Here’s how the Illini can come home with a victory on Monday and extend their current win streak to five.
Contain Ethan Happ
Illinois actually did a fairly good job at this in their most recent meeting, as they held Happ to 9 points and 9 rebounds. They’ll need at least a repeat performance if they want to have a chance in this game. Happ exploded for 20 points and 12 rebounds in the Badgers’ previous game, which was a home loss to No. 12 Michigan State, and he’s currently averaging a double-double with 18.4 PPG and 10.5 RPG. However, he’s only shooting 44.5% from the charity stripe on the season, and went 0-6 in his last game.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Adonis De La Rosa will have their work cut out for them, but they can play relatively aggressive knowing that Happ might not be able to punish us from the free throw line.
Use Andres Feliz Effectively
Coming off the bench against Ohio State, Andres Feliz scored 9 points and recorded 6 rebounds in 22 minutes of playing time. When he’s on the court, Feliz complements Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier very well in the back court.
Underwood must be careful about managing Feliz’s playing time, since his aggressive style does lead to fouls. But his offensive output is a substantial boost to the team’s offensive output, and Feliz is beginning to catch up ground on defense too.
Grab the Rebounds
We know Ethan Happ is going to dominate the boards and likely pull down 10+ rebounds on Monday night. But Giorgi is quickly improving in that capacity, having gathered 7 rebounds himself against Ohio State. Giorgi will need to continue building off of his most recent performance, and his big man teammates like Adonis De La Rosa and Kipper Nichols will need to support him. Andres Feliz, Ayo Dosunmu, and Alan Griffin all posted 4 or more rebounds against Ohio State, which is outstanding, but eventually our big men will need to step up in this category.
Illinois has a chance to defeat Wisconsin for the first time since Bruce Weber led Demetri McCamey, Bill Cole, and Mike Tisdale to a 69-61 home victory over the Badgers on Jan. 2, 2011. John Groce never defeated Wisconsin. Illini fans everywhere are hopeful that Brad Underwood will snap this long losing streak to our northern neighbors tomorrow night.
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