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Men's basketball: Illini sizzle then fizzle in loss to Badgers

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois started the second half against Wisconsin much like Michigan State did in dismantling the Illini on Thursday.

Illinois closed to within two possessions early and played with revamped energy.

Then it fizzled. Kind of like the Illini season.

With a 74-68 loss Sunday afternoon to Wisconsin, the Badgers completed a season sweep and left the Illini appearing out of answers.

The Illini (15-8, 2-7) lost four straight at home for the first time since 2007-08. They have lost three straight and six of the last seven.

Illinois coach John Groce tried to ignite some renewed energy by benching leading scorer Brandon Paul to start the game, but it yieled few results for the senior.

Paul went 3-for-13 shooting and played lackadaisical defense at times.

Joseph Bertrand, who started in his place, scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half.

But Groce went back to the team’s inability to execute the defense, which he said had not changed much game to game since the start of the season.

“Our guys have to trust the system more,” he said. “We can’t be on five different islands. ... It should be here at this point to be honest. That’s the disappointing part.”

Illinois shot only 29.6 percent against the Badgers in the first half to trail 33-24 at the break. 

Wisconsin (15-7, 6-3) Center Jared Berggren, who scored 15 points and 12 rebounds in the earlier meeting against Illinois, was limited by foul trouble. But his backup Frank Kaminsky, a Lisle native, scored 19 points.

Illini center Nnanna Egwu showed continued improvement with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

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