Illini Wonk
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
  Illini win the "Struggle of the Streaks"
As Illini Wonk said in a previous post, the Illinois Fighting Illini wanted Wisconsin to maintain their streak so they could come in and end it...and end it they did. Illinois used a balanced attack to score an historic win and end a 38-game home winning streak from the Wisconsin Badgers.

The most impressive thing about this win is the deficit they overcame late in the game. At about the mid-point of the second half, the Illini were staring at an eight point defecit and a crazed crowd. While holding that eight-point lead, the Badgers had two offensive trips that could have extended the lead to double digits.

But, as Dick Vitale said in the postgame on SportsCenter, "all of a sudden you could see the look in their eye. They had the look of a champion and responded in a positive way." The positive response by Illinois was a 13-2 run led by their bench to retake the lead. But, Wisconsin wasn't done. Two straight baskets from Mike Wilkinson and one by Alando Tucker gave the Badgers a 64-61 lead with four and a half minutes remaining in the game.

After that, Illinois went on a 10-o run and outscored them 14-1 over the last 4.5 minutes. James Augustine led the way with six of those 14 points and Luther Head's free throws salted the game away. It was the first visitor win in the Kohl Center since 2002.

How balanced was the Illini offense? Six of the eight players who saw playing time scored at least eight points and four of the five starters were in double figures. It makes it difficult for Illini Wonk to pick a player of the game.

Luther Head led the way with 18 points and 5 assists. Deron Williams had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists and was really looking for his shot for the first time in a long time this season. Roger Powell had a solid 11 points and 3 boards in time limited by his 4 fouls. Perhaps the biggest contribution came from Jack Ingram, who had eight crucial points (which tied a season high) off the bench to go with 2 boards and a key steal from Wilkinson down the stretch.

But, for this blogger, player of the game honors go to James Augustine who had 12 of his 14 points in the second half along with a game-high 9 rebounds (it seemed like 100) and 4 blocks. He also had a SportsCenter top 10 nominee with his block and coast-to-coast dunk in the first half. It was in a post merely two days ago that Illini Wonk expressed exasperation with the media for labeling Augustine's play "inconsistent." Hopefully, this will silence his critics.

With the win, Illinois moves to 20-0 and doesn't have that many tough tests left on their schedule. Vitale said that if the Illini can win at Michigan State next week, they should finish the regular season unblemished. The Illini can't afford to look past any Big Ten game, especially on the road, but other than at MSU, the rest of the games are very winnable.

ESPN recap here. CBS Sportsline here. Sports Illustrated here. here. Official Illinois site here. If you move quickly, the Illini are on the front page of all of those sites.

In a first for this site, Illini Wonk live blogged the game here. Links to the online event came from College Basketball and Hey...Listen! Before today, the most hits Illini Wonk had in a single day was about 250 and today was over the 300 mark at time of publishing this post. It may happen again in the future...
Going over the box score the biggest difference between IL & WI was IL made five more foul shots the WI was able to get to the foul line. From the scoring side everything else looked pretty much even. This is the second game in a row that IL has made the difference by going to the foul line.

I've also heard alot about the different attitude that IL had coming out of a timeout in the second half when tehy were down by 8 and the bench made the charge to bring the game back to even.

Thanks Wonk for the game summary tonight. I was at work and the only thing I had to watch was what was available online. You helped make a difference.
Thanks for the comment. I'm glad I could make your work experience more tolerable. I hope you taped the game, because it was one of the most exciting Illini Wonk has seen in a long time.

Free throws were definitely a key part of the victory, but Illinois had an edge at the free-throw line when they were down eight. I attribute the victory more to the second part of your comment: their winning attitude. Lesser teams would have folded at that deficit in that atmosphere. That win was just so impressive.
In all fairness, that "steal" by Ingraham was a push in the back sending Wilkinson flying. Not that Illinois didn't deserve that win, but come on, that was a blown call.
The late steal by Ingram probably was a blown call, just like the missed lay-up by Dee Brown in the first half that sent Brown into the basket support and Dick Vitale into a tirade on the missed foul call.

The fouls ended up 15-15, with the last 4 of Wisconsin's being intentional as they tried to come back. The Badgers can't do any complaining about the zebras.
I heard some zebra whining on your end. "Powell was getting cheap fouls" He got away with a flagrant over the back on that attempted dunk.
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