MADISON - The streak is over.
And for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team, it was long awaited.
Wisconsin (13-9 overall, 4-6 Big Ten) snapped its six-game losing streak, defeating No.23 Illinois (18-5, 6-4) 63-50 on Thursday night.
“That was a stretch there,” Jason Bohannon said of the Badgers’ losing streak. “There were a lot of games there we were right in it, just didn’t pull it out.
“Tonight, we got a lot better.”
Bohannon in particular got a lot better. The junior guard helped propel Wisconsin to its first win in almost a month by scoring a game-high 20 points, with all of his field goals coming from 3-pointers.
Bohannon’s 6-for-7 (.857) from 3-point range is a Kohl Center record and the second highest in school history, trailing only the 7-for-7 performance of Larry Hisle in 1990.
“We thought sooner or later Bohannon would get going,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “We hoped it wouldn’t be against us.”
And Bohannon’s outside shooting helped open everything open for the entire Wisconsin offense. He helped get the paint open for Marcus Landry and Jon Leuer, who scored 16 and 15 points, respectively. Both of them each hauled in six rebounds as well.
“When you have a shooter like Jason on the outside, it’s going to free up some things on the inside because they have to close out on him hard,” said Leuer, who made his first career start in place of the injured Keaton Nankivil (ankle). “You can just the feel the energy any time he gets an open shot – the whole building kind of stands up. We look at J-Bo to knock those shots down.
“It definitely helps out – not just inside, but just the flow of our offense. We get in a rhythm when he’s hitting.”
Unlike the games Wisconsin lost during its losing streak, the Badgers grabbed the lead early and were able to build upon it. With a 50 percent shooting percentage in the first half and Bohannon nailing his six five 3-pointers, Wisconsin was able to go into halftime with a comfortable 12-point lead at 37-25. The Badgers would extend their lead to as many as 17 when Bohannon hit his sixth 3-pointer with 17:02 remaining in the second half.
Behind a scrappy 14 points from Mike Davis and 12 from Demetri McCamey, Illinois would come back to hover around a deficit of 10 points. But for the first time since their last win, the Badgers were able to maintain their lead for good.
“Today, we had a lead, and I’m pretty sure in all those (losses), if I can remember right, we had a lead also,” Landry said. “And today, we maintained our lead.”
Wisconsin was able to force Illinois into a bad shooting night – something the Badgers were accustomed to themselves during their losing streak. The Illini shot 32.8 percent from the field and were an atrocious 4-of-21 from 3-point range.
“We were making them work for their shots and forcing tough shots,” Bohannon said.
And to think, Wisconsin did it all even with starting point guard Trevon Hughes scoring zero points and missing all seven of his shots. To Hughes’ credit, though, he was still effective as he dished out three assists and had four steals.
“He played a good game,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “ … how many times can you say that about an 0-for-7?”