By Genaro C. Armas AP Sports Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — MADISON, Wis. — Be careful against No. 4 Wisconsin. A couple of missed shots can quietly snowball into a huge hole for opponents.
No. 23 Illinois is the latest team to get run over by the surprising big red juggernaut. Ben Brust scored 18 points, Sam Dekker added 17 and the Badgers used a 20-0 run in the first half in an easy 95-70 win Wednesday night.
The Badgers improved to 16-0 (3-0 Big Ten), the best start in school history — not that coach Bo Ryan is paying attention.
“I’d have gone home, maybe had a beverage, eaten something and gone to bed and it would never be brought up until you just brought it up,” Ryan told a reporter after the game.
“For the players, what they’ve accomplished ... I’m certainly proud of them,” he added. “But you know, you start thinking about that too much, it can go the other way in a hurry.”
Just as it did for Illinois (13-3, 2-1) in the first half.
Wisconsin shot 53 percent from the field in the half to open a 25-point halftime lead, and finished 56 percent from the field for the night. The Illini (13-3, 2-1) stumbled badly in their debut this year as a Top 25 team and lost a sixth straight to their border rival.
Rayvonte Rice led Illinois with 19 points on 7-of-21 shooting.
The Illini missed 13 straight shots, some on easy looks, while Wisconsin methodically wore them down inside and on the perimeter during the big first-half run.
“Two-point field-goal efficiency and production. They got it done; I’ll give it to them,” Illlinois coach John Groce said.
Illinois outrebounded Wisconsin 48-35, including 25-5 on the offensive end, but still lost badly.
“It’s kind of a positive thing knowing that we gave up 25 offensive boards but we still won the way we did,” freshman forward Nigel Hayes said. “It just goes to show that if we clean that up ... we can probably win by even more and play a better game.”
Joseph Bertrand added 18 points and nine rebounds for Illinois, and Tracy Abrams had eight points. Nnanna Egwu grabbed 10 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end.
The balanced Badgers had five players with at least 11 points, with Frank Kaminsky adding 15 and Hayes 11 off the bench. Traevon Jackson had 15 points and went 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.
The end of Wisconsin’s first-half run typified Illinois’ frustrating evening. Kaminsky, Wisconsin’s 7-foot outside shooter, hit a 3 to make it 29-10 with about 10 minutes left before proving his worth at the other end.
The only defender back initially against two Illini, Kaminsky got in Abrams’ way to force a missed jumper. Illinois grabbed the rebound, but Egwu missed a short layup.
Two more offensive rebounds, two more misses before the ball went out of bounds to Wisconsin.
By contrast, the Badgers played with typical efficiency at the other end, a hallmark for coach Ryan’s teams.
The ball wound around the perimeter before going into Dekker. The lithe 6-foot-7 forward backed down his defender with about 5 seconds left on the shot clock before turning and hitting an easy layup.
“We’re at our best when everyone’s attacking, everyone’s looking to make a play,” Jackson said about the run.
Bertrand’s short jumper finally ended the spurt, but Illinois was well out of it already, down 33-12 with 7:56 left in the first half. The Badgers gave them a few easy looks on the defensive end, but Illinois failed to convert.
“They just came out and threw the first punch,” Rice said. “We’ve been fighting back all year, and they just came out and were the better team tonight.”
Illinois played a little better to open the second half and still could get no closer than 17.
Just another solid win for Wisconsin. The Badgers aren’t necessarily flashy, but they’ve got much more firepower offensively than in years past.
Dekker can beat opponents off the dribble, as he did on a pretty diagonal drive through the lane that ended with a hesitation move and three-point play during the start of the 20-0 run.
Kaminsky can hit the 3 or smoothly maneuver in the post. The pesky Brust can make opponents pay from the perimeter, finishing 4-of-8 from 3-point territory.
“A monster. Hard,” Groce said about the difficulty of defending Wisconsin. “They’re the best offensive team we’ve had to defend to this juncture.”