After an ugly first half and a shaky start to the second, the Wisconsin Badgers put things together and pulled out a 69-60 win over Illinois, sweeping the two-game season series from the Illini.
The Badgers trailed by 13-points in the second half before going on a 17-0 run to take the lead and a 36-14 overall run to post their eighth win in the last nine games. It was the biggest comeback for the Badgers since they came from 15-points down against number-one Ohio State in February of 2011.
The Badgers (17-10, 9-5 Big Ten) moved into a tie for fifth place with Michigan State as they continue to make a push for the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers also moved a half game in front of both Purdue and Michigan in the Big Ten standings.
Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology has the Badgers as an eight-seed in the West Region.
Ethan Happ was the only constant for the Badgers and kept them in the game. He hit five-of-seven from the field and 10 of 14 from the free throw line to finish with 20 points, 12 rebounds and six steals.
Nigel Hayes, who hit just 1 of 13 against Michigan State and struggled in the first half (4 points), scored 13 second half points, including six during the Badgers 17-to-nothing run.
Bronson Koenig added 14 points and Vitto Brown added nine.
Malcolm Hill had 20 points and Kendrick Nunn added 15 for the Illini.
The Badgers hit 26 of their 33 free throw attempts, outscoring the Illini at the free throw line 26-to-seven.
Wisconsin now has a quick turn-around on Wednesday night with a road game at Iowa. The Hawkeyes have lost two of their last three games and start the week trailing Indiana by a half-game for the Big Ten lead.
The Badgers have four games left in Big Ten play. Only Sunday’s game against Michigan is at the Kohl Center as the Badgers finish with three of four games on the road.