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  • Badgers close out regular season with 70-56 win

    first_imgSenior guards. Rob Wilson (33) and Jordan Taylor (11) both played their last game on the Kohl Center hardwood Sunday. Taylor scored 16 points, dished out three assists and committed zero turnovers. Wilson, the first man off the bench, chipped in another eight points.[/media-credit]The win might not have meant much, but the Wisconsin men’s basketball team sure looked sweet in its regular season curtain call all the same.Powered by four players scoring double-digits, No. 15 Wisconsin cruised past Illinois, 70-56, Sunday at the Kohl Center, its final tune up before the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.Since events elsewhere in the Big Ten had locked the Badgers into its fourth-place finish prior to the final buzzer, the Badgers (23-8, 12-6 Big Ten) didn’t have much to play for other than to give its two seniors, Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson, a proper sendoff as they played on the Kohl Center floor for the final time.Meanwhile, Illinois (17-14, 6-12 Big Ten) further stunted its NCAA resume by losing the 11th of its final 13 games and sunk to 10th place in the Big Ten.Taylor and sophomore guard Josh Gasser led UW with 16 points apiece. Forward Jared Berggren knocked back 12, and Ryan Evans, for the 10th consecutive game, scored in double-digits, with 10.Wilson chipped in another eight points in coming off the bench to play 26 minutes. He went 3-for-8 from the field and 2-for-6 from behind the arc.Brandon Paul led Illinois with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, while Joseph Bertrand backed him up with 10 more.The Illini struggled immensely to put together an efficient and functioning offense in the first half. The Badgers shot merely 38.5 percent in the opening period but led by as many as 17 points nevertheless.The Badgers quickly pounced on the Illini, establishing a 14-2 lead with 3-pointers coming from Taylor and Wilson after five-and-a-half minutes.Wisconsin held its ground early as well, conceding just three points in the painted area. Led by Berggren, the Badger defense limited the touches of Illini center Meyers Leonard and kept him silenced until deep into the second half.He remained scoreless until 9:21 remained in the game and entered the locker room at halftime flashing six rebounds, one foul and a turnover.“I got to try to limit [Leonard’s] touches and get to the front as much as possible, and then we got good help on the backside,” Berggren said. “There was a few times where they did throw a lob and my teammates came in behind and either got a steal or tied him up or get a tip – anything to get the ball out of his hands.”After coming back onto the floor after halftime down 31-18, Illinois managed to shake off its out-of-sorts, first-half demeanor. Though the Illini never came closer than nine points to the Badgers, they made sure UW didn’t just sit back and wait for the final 20 minutes to tick away.Leonard found the hoop several times in the second and continued dominating the glass – finishing with eight points and 12 rebounds – while Paul went on to score 17 of his 22 points. The Illini hit 51.7 percent of its field goals, minimized turnovers and scored 38 points in the final half.Unfortunately for the Illini, though, Wisconsin upped its game in the final period as well, shooting 52.4 percent from the field. Coupled with the lead it had already built, Wisconsin had little to fret about in the second half.Eight players scored for the cardinal and white, with five hitting at least one 3-pointer – good for a collective 36.8 clip from behind the perimeter. UW also dished out 12 assists and committed seven turnovers – five of which came in the first half.“It means we’re distributing the ball and guys are taking their looks,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said, whose 265th victory tied Bud Foster at the top spot of the school’s all-time wins list. “There was only a couple shots in there I was unhappy with. The rest of them, 90 percent of them, were good shots.”The Illini crept back into the game late, with its deficit bouncing around between 10-14 points, but the Badgers kept their visitors at bay with a solid showing from the free throw line to ensure the win.Fourteen of 16 free throws fell for Wisconsin during the last three minutes, and the Badgers hit 21 of 27 throughout the game, compared to Illinois’ 10 of 14.“We always have to play hard against a team like that,” Gasser said. “We knew we had to keep a foot on the pedal and keep going with it, and that started on the defensive end.”last_img read more