MADISON, WI - FEBRUARY 15: Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with Bronson Koenig #24 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Kohl Center on February 15, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Badgers ‘run’ away from Illinois to earn program’s best start ever

No one will ever accuse the Badgers of being a run-and-gun kind of team, but on Sunday the Badgers used a series of scoring runs to key a 68-49 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Both of UW’s big runs were keyed by Wisconsin’s (23-2, 11-1 B1G) big men, who dominated Illinois (17-9, 7-6 B1G) on the day. Senior forward Frank Kaminsky led all scorers with 23 points, while Nigel Hayes had 14 points and Sam Dekker added 10 to the mix.

Kaminsky was also an efficient player with his 23 points, shooting 11 of 16 from the field and added 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season, which leads all Big Ten players.

That trio did get some major help from sophomore guard Bronson Koenig, who had 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting for the night.

The win gave the Badgers the best ever start in school history, moving to 23-2 on the season. The 11-1 start to the Big Ten season is the best since a 12-0 year in conference play back in 1914.

Wisconsin has won more than 23 games just nine times in the 116 years of playing basketball.

As for the game itself?

Wisconsin came out hot, going up 10-2 early in the contest and did nearly the same thing to start the second half. UW also used a series of other smaller runs to stem any tide the Illini had in the win at the Kohl Center.

Illinois wouldn’t let the bad start phase them much though, as they answered right back with a 9-0 run on three straight made three-pointers to take their first lead at 11-10. It was an odd series of results though, as Austin Colbert started the run with just his second three-pointer of the season and it was capped off by sharpshooting Malcolm Hill.

However, Wisconsin used a timeout following the run and answered right back to retake the lead. The Badgers made an emphatic statement as Koenig hit Dekker for an emphatic slam dunk and Frank Kaminsky hit a jumper to make it 14-11 UW with 10:45 to play in the first half.

From there, the game would remain tight with the lead changing a few times and the two teams trading some amazing shot making. We would see a desperation throw up by Illinois as the shot clock hit zero and Kaminsky would go dribble, spin & floater from the free throw line.

That was just a catalyst for a nice run to end the first half, as the Badgers went on a 12-2 run to end the half up 32-24.

Wisconsin came out firing on nearly all cylinders to start the second half, opening with a 5-0 run and eventually running the lead to 40-26 early on in the half. A lot of that lead can be attributed to finally finding a stroke from outside.

After going 0-5 from the three-point line in the first half, Wisconsin started the second half 3-4 from deep. It meant the Illini had to extend their defense and that’s when the Badgers got even more dangerous. The Badgers ended up shooting 5 of 7 from deep in the second half, erasing the early advantage Illinois had from deep.

It was the exact opposite story for the Illini, who hit four of their first five triples but went on an 0 of 6 stretch after that. That stat combined with Wisconsin’s advantage in the paint and on the boards led to disaster for Illinois’ hopes of a true comeback in the second half.

UW had a 32-25 advantage on the boards on Sunday afternoon, but they also made the boards count with a huge advantage in second chance points.

The Illini tried a few times to cut the lead under the 10-point mark, but Wisconsin was having none of that. Instead, the Badgers would quickly extend their leads and reassert dominance in the game.

UW also happened to be the first team to get to the 60-point mark, going up 61-47 with 3:17 left in the game. That held in line with the history of this series, as the winner has reached the 60-point mark first in every game but one over the past 12 years.

Additionally, the Badgers defense has now held the Illini under 70 points in 21-straight contests.

Wisconsin will now move on to an always intriguing trip to Penn State and the Bryce-Jordan Center. Wednesday’s matchup is scheduled for a 6pm CT tip on BTN.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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