CHAMPAIGN – With the State Farm Center only half full as a snowstorm swirled outside, the Illinois public address announcer invited the 4,185 fans in attendance to move to the lower bowl of the arena.
The fans might have regretted a closer look, as the Illini fell 75-63 to Wisconsin on Tuesday night, extending their losing streak to eight games. The Illini have lost seven straight to the Badgers.
Unlike the last game between the two at Wisconsin, a 95-70 loss, the Illini weren't dominated. But they didn't control the Badgers, either.
Except for Rayvonte Rice, who scored all but six of his 24 points in the second half. The points were his most since he scored 29 points against Indiana in the Big Ten-opening victory.
He was the only Illini attacking the boards as well with nine to go with two steals.
The Illini (13-10, 2-8 Big Ten) fell behind by 10 points early in the second half, but Rice scored five points and had a steal during a 7-0 run for the Illini to put them back to within 42-39. He scored nine points in the first 5 minutes, 30 seconds minutes of the second half.
Entering the game, the Illini either had led or trailed by just two points in six of nine losses.
A 3-pointer by Joseph Bertrand closed the Illini deficit to 51-49 with 7:20 to play.
Wisconsin's 3-pointers made a bigger difference. The Badgers, who had lost five of their last six games, struggled with their perimeter shots but they connected on 10 of 23 against the Illini.
Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker (two) hit three consecutive 3-poitners for a 66-57 lead with 2:39 remaining.
Dekker and Ben Brust led the Badgers (18-5, 5-5) with 16 points each. Wisconsin freshman Nigel Hayes and Traevon Jackson chipped in 14 apiece. Hayes' 10 points in the first half helped Wisconsin to a 36-30 lead at the break. The Badgers scored on their last nine possessions of the first half to build the lead, shooting 47.8 percent before the break.
The last-place Illini play their next two games on the road against teams – Penn State and Nebraska –just above them in the Big Ten standings.