Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Pick & Prediction MARCH 2nd 2024

The biggest obstacle facing 13th-ranked Illinois when it visits Wisconsin on Saturday might be location, location, location.

Illinois (21-7, 12-5 Big Ten) is coming off a 105-97 home victory over Minnesota on Wednesday for its fourth win in five games.

The Badgers (18-10, 10-7) lost at Indiana 74-70 on Tuesday, their fifth consecutive road loss. But Wisconsin is 13-2 at home, losing only to then-No. 9 Tennessee 80-70 in early November, and 75-69 to No. 2 Purdue on Feb. 4.

Wisconsin, ranked No. 6 in late January after a 16-4 start, has lost six of its last eight games and dropped out of the Top 25.

Illinois scored 57 points in the second half against Minnesota en route to a season-high offensive output.

Terrence Shannon Jr., Marcus Domask and Coleman Hawkins combined for 71 points against the Gophers. Shannon had a team-high 29 points, hitting 4 of 8 shots from deep. Domask had 22 points and Hawkins 20.

But the Illini struggled on the defensive end, especially in the second half when the Golden Gophers made 20 of 30 shots for 66.7 percent, including 7 of 8 beyond the arc.

Illinois, 4-5 on the road, averages 84.5 points while allowing 72.9. The Illini have connected on 241 3-pointers to 167 for opponents, and have made almost as many free throws as opponents have attempted, hitting 474 of 640 compared with 343 of 483.

“I’m really tired of the narrative in the Big Ten that this is a big, slow, slug ’em out league,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said after the shootout with Minnesota. “The dynamic has changed in this league.”

Shannon averages 21.9 points per game, second in the Big Ten. Domask adds 15.5 points, Hawkins 13.3, and Quincy Guerrier adds 10.3 points and team-high 6.8 boards. The Illini outrebound opponents by an average of 9.2 per contest.

Against Indiana, which had lost four straight and eight of its last 10, the Badgers overcame a 15-point first-half deficit and led 70-68 with 2:06 left, but failed to score the rest of the way, missing their last six shots.

The Badgers had five players in double figures against the Hoosiers, led by Chucky Hepburn with 15 points and AJ Storr with 14, but they allowed Indiana to shoot 61.7 percent, including 63.6 percent in the second half on 14-of-22 shooting.

“What I am frustrated about is that defensively we’ve come down this road before,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “At times we’re really good, and then we’re not. We had really good possessions tonight when we were making our run. But consistently, to cross that threshold, that’s been our Achilles’ heel for most of the year.”

Wisconsin had only six players score with freshman guard John Blackwell getting all 11 bench points.

Storr averages a team-best 16.2 points, followed by Tyler Wahl at 11.5 and Steven Crowl with 11.2, along with a team-high 7.7 rebounds.

“Just very disappointed in ourselves,” Hepburn said after the loss at Indiana. “It’s the same thing we had to battle last year. We have older players now. You would hope that we’ve got it down by now, but we don’t.

“We’ve got to figure out how to change it really quick, because it’s going to end fast in March if we don’t.”

Illinois has won the last six matchups with Wisconsin, after the Badgers had won 15 straight.

–Field Level Media

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