Hayes, Koenig lead way vs. Illinois
CHAMPAIGN, Ill.—Nigel Hayes scored 17 points, Bronson Koenig added 11 and Wisconsin beat Illinois 63-55 on Sunday night for the Badgers' fourth straight victory.
Wisconsin (13-9, 5-4 Big Ten) fell behind the Illini (10-12, 2-7) early but took its first lead at 23-22 on a dunk by Khalil Iverson with 4:56 left in the first half and never trailed again. Iverson finished with a career-high 10 points.
The Illini closed to within 55-50 with 1:02 to play on a 3-pointer by Kendrick Nunn. But Hayes hit six free throws in the last minute to ice the game.
Malcolm Hill led Illinois with 22 points.
Starting Illini forward Michael Finke left the game with an apparent knee injury in the second half after a collision with Hayes. Nunn also struggled after a collision, leaving for the locker room during the second half but returning late.
Illinois coach John Groce said in a postgame radio interview that he believed neither injury was serious but that Finke would have an MRI.
Illinois went up 18-10 midway through the first half on a jump shot by Hill. But the Badgers responded with a 15-4 run to go up 25-22.
The Badgers only hit two 3-pointers on the night, going 2 for 14, but they went 17 for 20 at the free throw line—all of them in the second half—and scored 22 points in the paint against an out-manned Illinois. The Illini scored just eight points inside.
Illinois has now lost seven of its last nine.
Wisconsin: The Badgers have played in eight games decided by three or fewer points, the most in the country. They're 3-5 in those games, including recent wins over Michigan State and Indiana. … Wisconsin has won nine straight over Illinois and 16 of the last 20. … The first team to 60 in Wisconsin-Illinois games has won 27 of the past 28 games over a span of 13 seasons.
Illinois: After allowing Indiana to score 103 points in a Jan. 19 loss, the Illini have tightened up on the defensive end. The past two opponents, Minnesota and Ohio State, averaged 69.5 points against Illinois in a pair of overtime games. … With Mike Thorne Jr. missing his third straight for Illinois, Illini players have now missed a combined 62 games due to injury this season.
Wisconsin hosts Ohio State on Thursday.
Illinois plays at Rutgers on Wednesday.