Wisconsin was supposed to be wrapping up a stretch of three nonconference home games on Wednesday against Illinois State before returning to the Big Ten grind, but now the 24th-ranked Badgers are hoping the game in Madison, Wis., proceeds as scheduled.
Wisconsin’s previous game last Thursday against late-replacement George Mason was canceled due to COVID-19 issues in the Badgers program. Wisconsin originally was scheduled to face Morgan State, but that was canceled because of COVID-19 issues at Morgan State.
The Badgers scrambled to land George Mason to fill the opening, but that fell by the wayside about five hours before the scheduled tip-off. Wisconsin’s women’s team also had its home game canceled last Thursday due to COVID-19, and athletic director Chris McIntosh tested positive and will not accompany the football team to the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 30.
Wisconsin (9-2) averages 68.6 points and allows 61.2, limiting opponents to 41 percent shooting. Illinois State (8-5) has won four straight, scoring at least 80 each game, including an 81-64 victory at home over UTSA on Dec. 21. The Redbirds average 80.4 points, giving up 76.8.
Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis is 15th in NCAA Division I in scoring at 20.9 points per game, while Illinois State’s Antonio Reeves is one spot back, averaging 20.8.
In their last outing two weeks ago, the Badgers overcame 12-point second-half deficit to defeat Nicholls State 71-68 at home, despite the absence of Davis, out with a non-COVID illness. It was the third time the Badgers have rallied to win after trailing by double digits in the second half.
“I commented earlier about just the extra effort and that we have a little saying in the locker room, ‘Gritty not pretty,'” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “Sometimes good teams find a way when things aren’t going well.”
Davis, the Badgers most explosive player, averages a team-best 6.1 rebounds. The 6-5 sophomore guard also did not play in a 63-58 nonconference loss at home to Providence in mid-November.
Fifth-year senior guard Brad Davison averages 15.2 points and forward Tyler Wahl adds 5.0 rebounds and has a team-high 16 blocks. Wisconsin’s 8.5 turnovers per game are second fewest in the nation.
Reeves is tied for 11th nationally with 43 3-pointers made, shooting 47 percent beyond the arc. Josiah Strong averages 12.8 points, and is 37-of-81 on 3-pointers. Sy Chatman averages 14.3 points and a team-best 6.5 boards.
Illinois State limited UTSA to 38 percent shooting, including 3 of 20 from 3-point range.
“Our last six games, I think, our defensive field goal percentage might be below 40 at this point,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller said after the win over UTSA. “We’ve seen different teams, different styles, but when you see consistency like that, then you feel like, OK, we’re getting there.”
The Badgers (1-1 Big Ten) return to conference play on Monday at third-ranked Purdue.
–Field Level Media