Trouble Against Illini

Wisconsin has been unbeatable at home against Big Ten foes since Bo Ryan took over as coach, unless Illinois is the opponent.

The No. 21 Badgers, seeking their seventh straight win, host the only team in the conference to beat them at the Kohl Center during Ryan's tenure in a matchup with the struggling Illini on Thursday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Wisconsin -12 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Wisconsin -12 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Wisconsin (12-2, 2-0) has won 12 straight Big Ten home games and 47 of 49 since Ryan took over seven seasons ago. The only losses during that stretch came against ranked Illinois teams in 2005 and 2006.

The Illini (8-7, 2-0) didn't play at the Kohl Center last season but lost both meetings with the Badgers, including one in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

This season's Illinois team, however, comes to Madison on a three-game losing streak following home losses to Ohio State and Penn State to open its conference schedule.

Ryan, though, doesn't want the Badgers to overlook the Illini.

"They've got some very good younger players they're trying to mix with their very good, experienced players," he said. "We expect a very tough contest."

The Badgers are holding opponents to a conference-low 53.9 points per game and 37.8 percent from the field. Those numbers are even better at the Kohl Center, where they have allowed averages of 51.3 points and 36.0 percent shooting.

Illinois is among the Big Ten's lowest-scoring teams at 66.2 points per game.

Wisconsin is coming off a 64-51 home win over Iowa last Saturday. Ryan briefly sat his starters after they let Iowa score the first six points of the second half, but they returned to go on an 11-1 run and finished the second half 11-of-20 (55 percent) from the floor.

"That was kind of a wake-up call for all of us that we needed to get our heads on and play the rest of the second half if we wanted to win the game," said Brian Butch, who led Wisconsin with 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Butch has taken over the team scoring lead, averaging 13.7 points, from Devon Hughes, who is looking to get back on track. Hughes' season average is down to 13.6 points following two subpar games this month after missing one with an ankle injury. He's totaled 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting in Big Ten play.

The Illini, meanwhile, are trying to avoid their first four-game losing streak since dropping seven straight Big Ten games during the 1998-99 season.

Illinois is playing its first official road game since a 69-61 loss to Maryland on Nov. 28. The Illini are 1-1 in true road games and 3-2 at neutral sites.

"We're searching for answers," said coach Bruce Weber, who believes his team might benefit from some time away from home.

The Illini are coming off a 68-64 loss to Penn State last Sunday. Freshman Demetri McCamey scored 18 points off the bench while Calvin Brock added 15. The other four starters were 6-of-20 (30.0 percent) from the field for 17 points.

Illinois leads the all-time series against Wisconsin 106-70, but the Badgers have a 50-38 advantage in Madison.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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