D’Mitrik Trice’s late-game heroics didn’t prove enough for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (16-9, 10-8 Big Ten) to overtake the shorthanded Illinois Fighting Illini (18-6, 14-4), who won 74-69 on senior night.
Instead, Illinois forward Kofi Cockburn dominated the paint, leading to a season sweep against the Badgers. His 19-point performance included an emphatic dunk over Wisconsin forward Micah Potter, which sent the Illini bench into hysteria. The dunk put the Illini up 13 points with under four minutes left to play in the second half.
The Illini proved they could win big games even without their star player Ayo Dosunmu. The junior stud had averaged 21 points per game, but a facial injury sidelined him for the second consecutive game.
The Badgers did just about everything right in the first half except score the basketball. The Badgers forced 12 turnovers and collected six offensive rebounds to give themselves 17 more shots than Illinois in the first half.
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Wisconsin struggled to convert when given additional opportunities. The Badgers finished the half shooting the ball 10-for-37 from the field (27%) while Illinois shot 13-for-20 (65%) from the floor including 4-for-6 from distance.
Despite the Badgers’ poor shooting, they only trailed by seven points before Wisconsin guard Brad Davison was called for a flagrant one foul with one minute left in the half.
Davison received the flagrant one foul after grabbing and holding Cockburn’s arm while going for a rebound. Cockburn connected on both foul shots and André Curbelo scored on the ensuing possession to give the Illini a 4-point swing and an 11-point lead going into halftime.
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The second half was more of the same until late. Poor shooting proved to be the downfall for the Badgers. Wisconsin was able to create 69 shots on the night but only converted on 24 (34.8%). The Illini converted one more field goal than Wisconsin (25) on 21 less attempts (48).
It felt as though Wisconsin lost the win right from the jump because of their poor shooting. That was until Wisconsin’s guard D’Mitrik Trice completely put the team on his back in the game’s final two minutes.
Trice scored the team’s final 19 points which brought the game back within one point with just seven seconds left to play. Trice hit five 3-pointers in the final 2:12 of the game to hurl the Badgers back from the dead.
Trice finished with 29 points, but his late-game heroics came up just short as the Illini iced the game away from the free throw line to earn a victory at the Kohl Center.
Trice is one of seven seniors for the Badgers who might have just played his last game in Madison. The NCAA granted all winter sport athletes another year of eligibility because of the effects of COVID-19, but the seven Wisconsin seniors have yet to decide their future.
The loss for the Badgers is their third in the last four games. Wisconsin has lost their last six games against ranked opponents and are now just 4-7 against Quad One teams.
Bracketologist Joe Lunardi had the Badgers at the No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament before the loss on Saturday.
The Badgers only have two games remaining on the schedule before heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament. No. 23 Wisconsin will go on the road to Purdue Tuesday night for their first clash of the season with the Boilermakers. Tip-off from Mackey Arena is set for 8 p.m.