CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — With the Badgers’ 64-57 loss at Illinois on Saturday, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team displayed the struggles that had been plaguing it over the past four games.
Poor shooting, ill-advised decisions and untimely defense have all been a factor during the Badgers’ current four-game losing streak, but there remains at least one bright spot — the play of senior forward Joe Krabbenhoft.
In the loss, Krabbenhoft scored a career-high 16 points to go along with 12 rebounds, the eighth time he has reached the double-double mark in his career at Wisconsin.
Illinois head coach Bruce Weber was particularly impressed with the way Krabbenhoft conducted himself on the court.
“First of all, Joe is the type of guy that you hate to play against,” Weber said. “He’s like a utility guy in baseball — he plays all the positions, he’s a great passer, he plays his butt off.”
The Badgers were so confident with Krabbenhoft’s defense that they put him on the Illini’s most explosive offensive player, Demetri McCamey. Though McCamey scored a game-high 25 points, Weber believes that it was his guard’s strong play, not weak defense by Krabbenhoft.
“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Who is the best defender in the league?’ and I think (Krabbenhoft) is one of them,” Weber said. “They probably felt he had the big body … and maybe they didn’t want to wear Trevon Hughes out.”
Even with his career day, Krabbenhoft felt he didn’t do anything differently from the other games he played this year. Despite his strong performance, however, he is disappointed and already looking forward to the next game.
“Every game you try and help the team in any way you can,” Krabbenhoft said. “The numbers don’t mean anything to anyone here. A win or a loss is what’s important; that’s what we’re focused on.”
Aside from his big game, Krabbenhoft was an integral part of the Badgers’ near comeback in the waning minutes of the contest. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan attributed Krabbenhoft’s and the team’s toughness to its performance down the stretch.
“It was just grit, toughness,” Ryan said. “It comes with strength and experience, so physically we just didn’t take advantage of some opportunities we had.”
Bohannon, Leuer struggle in loss.
Although the Illini can be attributed for playing strong defense in their win over Wisconsin, they were also helped by poor shooting by typical Badgers sharpshooters.
Junior guard Jason Bohannon struggled for the second straight game, this time shooting 1-for-7 from the field and 0-for-3 from 3-point range, scoring only two points against Illinois.
Making matters worse for Wisconsin, sophomore forward Jon Leuer, who had been making a strong push for Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year — the award won by Bohannon last year — shot only 1-for-6, missing the two 3-pointers he attempted.
Bohannon and Leuer’s play was particularly strong in the loss against Minnesota, during which the two scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, second and third on the team in scoring behind Marcus Landry’s 18.
Since that game however, Leuer and Bohannon have not been able to produce offensively. Before facing Illinois, the duo had a near-equally poor performance against Iowa, shooting a combined 4-for-15 with only 15 points between the two.
“We only had six or seven turnovers, and to our advantage, we got a lot more shots,” Bohannon said. “Our shots just weren’t falling this time.”