MADISON, Wis. (AP) Bo Ryan called it the most complete game for Wisconsin this season, and it’s not hard to see why. Just look at what the Badgers did to Illinois.
Jared Berggren scored 15 points and grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds, and Traevon Jackson added a career-best 14 points to lead Wisconsin over the 12th-ranked Illini 74-51 Saturday.
“That’s as well as we’ve played for a total of 40 minutes against that caliber of a team,” Ryan said. “That’s probably as good as we’ve played this year, and what you have to do is know that tomorrow, we’re practicing for next. That’s how short-lived a victory like this can be.”
It sure was impressive, though.
The Badgers (12-4, 3-0 Big Ten) scored the game’s first 14 points and led by 20 at halftime on the way to their sixth straight win.
It was a stunning performance from a team that scored just 47 in its previous game, against Nebraska, but a supposedly slow and methodical group locked into a higher gear and ended the suspense almost as soon as the game began.
Whether they were making 3-pointers, driving for layups, putting back misses or throwing down dunks, the Badgers had their way in this one. They outshot Illinois 49.1 percent to 35.3 percent, making 10 of 23 3-pointers, and outrebounded the Illini 43-24.
Berggren, a 6-foot-10 senior, had the first double-double of his career and maybe quieted some teammates.
“I don’t care too much about stats,” he said. “But it was definitely something that we joked about in the locker room. The guys always made fun of me when I (would have stat lines like) 12 and 9 or something, I would be like one rebound short. But it’s fun to finally get over the hump.”
Jackson eclipsed his previous high of 13 points, and Sam Dekker scored 13.
It was certainly not what Illinois (14-4, 1-3) envisioned coming off a 17-point loss to No. 8 Minnesota. The Illini have lost four of six after winning their first 12 under new coach John Groce.
“At the end of the day, their competitive spirit was better than ours at the start of the game,” Groce said. “That is not acceptable. That is not what we’re about.”
The Illini set a season low for scoring, with star Brandon Paul managing just eight points and making 1 of 11 shots. D.J. Richardson scored 16, but Illinois never had a chance.
The Badgers beat the Illini to loose balls. They attacked the glass and rebounded missed free throws, keeping possessions. On defense, they made the day miserable for Illinois.
With Jackson and Mike Bruesewitz guarding him, Paul never did find a rhythm.
“It wasn’t his day,” Bruesewitz said. “The things you’ve got to take from his (are) his open 3s. You can’t let him get going early. He’s really good with that runner off his right hand. So that was a big thing for me.”
The Badgers led 39-19 at the break, with Jackson scoring 12 in the half after averaging just 4.7 points in the first 15 games. Berggren scored 11, including seven as Wisconsin took a 14-0 lead. His corner 3 and another shot from long range by Ben Brust capped that run. Paul gave Illinois its first point when he made 1 of 2 free throws with 13:13 left in the half, and Joseph Bertrand followed with a jumper to give the Illini their first basket.
But the Badgers scored 15 in a row and 18 of 20 to turn a nine-point edge into a 34-9 gulf, starting with three straight 3-pointers.
Sam Dekker buried one from the wing to get it going. Brust made one from well beyond the top of the arc, sending a roar through the stands, and Jackson followed with another one from up top after Berggren blocked a driving Paul.
“A college guard, you’re supposed to be able to hurt teams inside and out,” said Jackson, whom made two 3-pointers. “If you’re not, then you’re going to be Rondo. Nothing against Rondo, but he’s a freak of an athlete. Not everybody can do what he’s doing. You’ve got to be ready to shoot, catch and shoot, so that’s what I’m working on.”
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