Brad Davison scored 18 points, Khalil Iverson added 16 and the No. 22 Badgers held off Illinois 64-58 on Monday night with their leading scorer on the bench for the final four minutes.
Ethan Happ, who averages 18 points, scored just six points on 3-of-7 shooting, was 0 for 3 from the foul line and had three turnovers, including one just before he went to the bench. He also has proven a liability from the line in crunch time in past games, shooting less than 45 percent from the line. But Gard said he benched Happ because of his decision making, not his past struggles from the line.
In stepped Davison and Iverson for the Badgers (18-8, 10-5 Big Ten).
Davison’s jumper put the Badgers up 54-52 with 3:21 left, giving them the lead for good. After Iverson blocked Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Davison collected the loose ball to take it in for a layup and a 56-52 lead with 2:45 to go.
From there the teams traded blows until Nate Reuvers’ putback dunk on a missed 3 gave Wisconsin a 62-58 lead. Iverson then stole the ball on the next Illinois possession following a timeout, helping put away the game.
Aaron Jordan finished with 12 points for the Illini, while Ayo Dosunmu added 11 and Bezhanishvili 10.
The Illini had won four straight coming in and were looking for their first five-game conference winning streak since 2013. Instead, they lost their 15th in a row to the Badgers, the longest streak to any Illinois opponent.
Illinois hosts Penn State on Saturday.
>>Illini Freshman Earns Second Straight Weekly Honor
Fighting Illini freshman Ayo Dosunmu has earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the second straight week following his clutch performance in Illinois' road win at Ohio State, the conference announced on Monday.
Dosunmu led the Illini to their fourth straight win and first road win of the season last Thursday, scoring a team-high 15 points with four rebounds and game-high three assists in the victory at Ohio State. He came up big during crunch time, hitting a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left to push the lead from three to six points. Dosunmu scored or assisted on nine of Illinois' final 15 points as the Orange and Blue earned their first win in Columbus in 10 years.
The last Illini B1G Freshman of the week prior to Dosunmu's current two-week reign was Trent Frazier on Feb. 12, 2018. Frazier was Freshman of the Week on two occasions last season.
>>Duke Is College Basketball's New No. 1
Tennessee's first loss since November has brought Duke back to the No. 1 spot in the AP poll. Monday's rankings dropped the Volunteers, who fell in record-setting fashion at Kentucky on Saturday night, down to fifth.
Kentucky bumps up to No. 4, while Virginia and Gonzaga remain constants near the top of the rankings. The biggest riser this week is LSU, which moves up six spots to No. 13 after its road wins vs. Kentucky and Georgia moved the Tigers to 21-4 and moved them into a first-place tie in the SEC standings with Tennessee.
The biggest fall inside the poll this week is Kansas State's: the Wildcats go from 18th to 23rd after losing at home Saturday to Iowa State, which is now No. 19.
Kentucky's dominant showing over No. 1 Tennessee on Saturday earned it a bump in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll. The Wildcats moved from No. 5 to No. 4, despite losing to LSU earlier in the week, leapfrogging Tennessee, which fell four spots to No. 5.
The fall of the Vols benefited last week's top 5 teams, as each moved up a spot. As a result, Duke is the new No. 1, receiving 28 of a possible 32 first-place votes. The Blue Devils rallied from a 23-point deficit to take out ACC foe Louisville on Tuesday, then blew out NC State at home on Saturday to improve to 23-2 overall.
Gonzaga received the four remaining first-place votes available this week in its bump from No. 3 to No. 2. Virginia is ranked third this week, and Kentucky and Tennessee round out the new top 5.