Down four with just over two minutes remaining before the Badgers would be hit with their first home loss of the season, sophomore guard Jordan Taylor split between two Illinois defenders and saw an open lane to the basket. The lay-up would cut the Fighting Illini's lead to two, and just like Wisconsin has done all season in the Kohl Center, they would ride the momentum to escape defeat.
But Taylor missed. And in the second half missing was contagious for the Badgers on their way to a 63-56 loss to Illinois.
Wisconsin only made eight shots in the second half with five of those coming from behind the arc and one after the game was out of reach. In the last 12 minutes of the game Illinois held the Badgers to only eight points and only gave up one trip to the free throw line, where sophomore Rob Wilson came up empty.
""The problem is when you're not putting points on the board, it just doesn't look good,"" Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. ""But you knew it had to happen sooner or later where we were going to go dry. We just picked a bad time to do it.""
In the beginning of the first half the Badgers looked like the team that toppled over Michigan State and Michigan. They raced out to an 8-0 lead behind a lay-up by junior forward Keaton Nankivil and 3s by senior guard Jason Bohannon and junior guard Tim Jarmusz. Bohannon had a team-high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting with six rebounds for Wisconsin.
The Badgers completely shut out Illinois' leading scorer junior guard Demetri McCamey to start the game, but were bombed by 7'1"" junior center Mike Tisdale, whose mid-range jumper kept the Fighting Illini in striking distance. He knocked down 10 of Illinois' first 13 points on his way to finishing with 19 on 8-of-11 shooting.
McCamey finally came out of his shell at the end of the first half. He hit three consecutive 3s, which, if not for a buzzer-beater by senior guard Trevon Hughes, would have given Illinois the lead going into half.
Those nine quick points by McCamey shifted the momentum to Illinois head coach Bruce Weber and his team.
""[McCamey] did some big time things throughout the game; he's really playing like we've wanted him to."" Weber said.
It looked like the Badgers would regain control after a fluke play. McCamey lost the ball when it looked like he dribbled the ball off of Taylor's foot. He hesitated on the play, waiting for a kick call while Taylor picked up the ball down on the Badgers' end and nailed a 3 from the far corner of the court. The triple gave the Badgers a five-point lead.
Soon after, Wisconsin hit the cold streak, which might have cost them a Big Ten regular season title. McCamey, who leads the Big Ten in assists, found junior Bill Cole near the baseline and snuck a clever pass to him. Cole finished the lay-up with Taylor fouling him on the way up. Following Cole's made free throw, Illinois held a 47-45 lead.
Wisconsin had its opportunities to pull the game back in its favor in the second half, but the Badgers' intermittent 3s and occasional mid-range jumpers weren't enough to faze the Illini.
""At two-and-a-half minutes we had to start fouling, and they got away from us,"" Bohannon said. ""Even though we weren't converting shots, we were still doing other things that were keeping us there, and we just have to find a way to make those shots.""
The loss snaps Wisconsin's 51-game win streak over unranked teams at the Kohl Center and allows Illinois to jump over the Badgers in the Big Ten standings.
""As much of a cluster [as] the Big Ten is, there is no reason to dwell on one loss,"" Nankivil said. ""We just have to go out and play and do everything we can to get back in a good position.""