I can’t believe I’m writing this.
I spent much of the game updating my friend via text on the status of the game since he couldn’t watch it live. And I closed every update with: “We aren’t winning this game.”
The game was within three to eight points for the majority of the contest, but it never felt like Illinois was going to come away with the win. It wasn’t the dominating clinic of years past that we’ve seen when these two teams matchup. It was more of Wisconsin holding us to an arm’s length while Illinois made swing after swing to take them out.
I had seen the movie play out plenty of times. But this time the guys got stops and didn’t foul late. And three different guys stepped up and made clutch threes, and the team’s closer closed it out with five straight points.
Illinois was finally the team to steal a win.
On to the takeaways.
Ayo was terrific tonight in every way. 18 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and only one turnover. And his assists were big-time assists. A couple of lobs to Kofi, the pass on Trent’s three, and he hit Alan for a few of his threes including a beautiful pass in transition.
He was in complete command Wednesday night. He showed everyone what all the hype was about. It’s very rare to see a kid go on the road in the Big Ten and take over a game like that in the late stages. Illinois is going to need that killer instinct out of him going forward.
He also had a monstrous dunk off of an offensive rebound in the first. And then another dunk.
Kobe King looked like Kobe Bryant. He started the second half off with three straight baskets to keep Wisconsin ahead. All three of these came while matched up with Da’Monte Williams. He channelled his namesake and looked like Kobe Bryant draining midrange fadeaways in Illinois’ face at a ridiculous clip the entire night.
If Da’Monte isn’t going to be able disrupt a guy who’s hot like that and put the clamps on him, it’s really tough to see what value he brings to the floor.
Four guys had three fouls at the 13-minute mark in the second half. The Badgers were in the bonus with 10 minutes to go in the first half and 12 minutes to go in the second half. The Badgers would shoot 20 of 23 from the line.
This in a nutshell is why it is so hard to win there. Wisconsin is never going to make more mistakes than the opposing team. And they didn’t against the Illini. Illinois had to go and take the game in the final moments.
Alan Griffin is a Menace
Griffin is playing with so much confidence right now. He’s a little out of control at some moments. His second foul was not smart. He hounded his guy one too many times and had to go to the bench right after Giorgi picked up his second. And then he picked up his third foul on his first possession of the second half.
But when he was on the floor, Griffin was incredibly efficient with 12 points on 3 of 4 from three. That shooting punch is exactly what Illinois has been missing. Illinois needs him to stay out of foul trouble so he can play 30 minutes, not 20 minutes.