“I could not be prouder of this group of guys and their toughness and ability to step up,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “Grit was a big part of it today.”
Illinois (18-6, 15-4 Big Ten) has won its last three meetings with Wisconsin (16-9, 10-8) since a 15-game losing streak in the series.
Trice and Wisconsin pushed Illinois right to the very end.
After Wisconsin trailed by 13 points with less than three minutes left, Trice nearly brought the Badgers all the way back by scoring 19 points in the final 2:12. Trice’s sixth 3-pointer cut Illinois’ lead to 70-69 with 6.7 seconds left.
“I honestly don’t even know what was going through my mind,” Trice said. “I just knew that we needed to hit some shots and make some buckets and make some plays down the stretch to be able to come back and be in the position we were in.”
Illinois’ Trent Frazier sank two free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining to make it 72-69. Illinois then fouled Trevor Anderson before Wisconsin could attempt a tying 3-pointer, and an exchange of words near the Wisconsin bench resulted in offsetting technical fouls.
“One of their players came into the (Wisconsin) huddle, which was not supposed to happen,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “The officials took care of that and I thought handled it the right way.”
Anderson missed his first free throw. Wisconsin still could have attempted a desperation 3-pointer if Anderson missed his second attempt and the Badgers got the offensive rebound. But the rebound went to Illinois’ Jacob Grandison, who hit a pair of free throws to cap the scoring.
Trice finished with 29 points. Micah Potter had 15 points for Wisconsin.
Andre Curbelo scored 17 points and Da’Monte Williams had 12 for Illinois, which committed a season-high 20 turnovers.
Illinois never trailed, capitalizing on Wisconsin’s shooting woes. Wisconsin was shooting 17 of 62 (27.4%) before making its last seven attempts of the game.
Illinois led by as many as 14 in the second half before Trice got Wisconsin back into the game and nearly put the Badgers over the top. Illinois survived by making its final five field-goal attempts and going 10 of 10 from the free-throw line over the last 44 seconds.
“You just got to make sure you do your job at your end,” Underwood said. “And we did with our last five field goals and our last 10 free throws – and a lot of prayer.”
Illinois: Playing its third game in five days, Illinois was in command from the start, but Dosunmu’s absence was notable down the stretch. The road doesn’t get any easier for the Illini, who close the season with road games against No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State.
Wisconsin: The Badgers are shooting poorly, particularly against quality teams. Wisconsin remains in good shape to make the NCAA Tournament, but it’s hard to imagine the Badgers staying there for long unless their shooting improves.
UNUSUAL HOME FINALE
It was an unusual atmosphere for Wisconsin’s home finale. The Badgers tried to honor their seven seniors while observing pandemic protocols. As each senior was introduced and received a framed jersey in a pregame ceremony, parents cheered from several rows up the stands in an otherwise empty Kohl Center.
Even after winning its last two games, Illinois still may drop a couple spots because of its loss to Michigan State. Wisconsin is in danger of falling out of the Top 25 for the first time this season.
Illinois: At No. 3 Michigan on Tuesday.
Wisconsin: At Purdue on Tuesday.
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