Illinois may not be the team standing in the way of Wisconsin reaching the top of the Big Ten. But as the team next up for the Badgers, it?s the Illini that will warrant the Badgers? attention.
Even as conference leader Purdue plays Indiana this week, No. 10 Wisconsin (21-4, 11-2 Big Ten) will direct all of its focus toward Illinois (11-15, 3-10) as it heads to Assembly Hall Wednesday night.
?We just got to take care of what we have to take care of,? guard Trevon Hughes said. ?We can?t worry about other people.?
Though the Illini sit just one spot from last place in the conference, winning on the road won?t be a sure thing for the Badgers.
?Every time you go on the road, it?s definitely going to be a hard thing, especially in the Big Ten,? Hughes said. ?As of late they?ve been playing well. ? They?re seniors, this is their last stretch, and they don?t want it ending early.?
For Illinois, playing at home might present more of a challenge than usual, but that won?t affect the way Wisconsin gets ready.
?You prepare for a (road) game the same way you prepare at home,? Badger head coach Bo Ryan said in his Monday press conference. ?We?ll go to practice the day before at an opposing team?s facility, and we do the same pregame stuff that we do when we?re at home.?
Illinois has won just three of its last 14 games, and one of its last five, but the team, led by center Shaun Pruitt, still poses a threat. Pruitt is averaging 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and is the Illini?s leading scorer.
?Shaun Pruitt is going to be tough in the paint,? Hughes said. ?He?s going to be hard to stop, so we have to come together and show our good defense.?
In the team?s first meeting the Badgers did a good job of limiting the big man, holding him to just nine points on 3-8 shooting in the 70-60 win.
Hughes scored 22 points, dished out five assists and had a season-high six steals in that game, but the sophomore knows Illinois will be paying more attention to him this time around.
?You know going into it that they are going to key on you, so my mindset is to be going to get the ball inside the paint and contribute for others.?
Hughes, who has struggled with turnovers at times, put out a strong performance against Minnesota this weekend. The team as a whole has limited its turnovers since giving it up 18 times in a home loss to Purdue.
?We?re just trying to make plays,? Hughes said. ?Obviously we can?t throw the ball away.?
In Wisconsin?s last game, Minnesota hung around for a while before the Badgers finally put the Gophers away with a late run. Playing in a hostile environment this time, UW doesn?t want to let the home team develop an early confidence.
?We have to get off to a fast start, especially playing on the road,? Hughes said. ?Once the home team gets momentum, gets the crowd into it, it?s hard to get that momentum back.?
The Badgers come into the contest once again ranked in the top 10 after beating Indiana and Minnesota last week. Wisconsin has now won 15 of its last 17 game, with both losses coming to Big Ten leader Purdue, the team it now trails in the standings.
?Winning is not easy, and there are things that you have to do in order to get to that point where you?re successful as a team, and the players make that commitment with their work from day one,? Ryan said. ?You know, it?s a lot of, there?s a lot of sacrifices. There?s things that have to come together in order for teams tobe successful.?