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
. FoxSports.com 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
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...