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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Bronson Koenig scored 15 points and had zero turnovers, the fourth time he has done so in eight starts at point guard.

Badgers control Illinois

The recipe for success for No. 5 Wisconsin has been fairly consistent during its current eight-game winning streak, and Sunday afternoon was no different.

Behind stellar performances from senior Frank Kaminsky and sophomore guard Bronson Koenig, the Badgers (11-1 Big Ten, 23-2 overall) defeated Illinois (7-6, 17-9) 68-49 at the Kohl Center, tying the record for the best 25-game start in school history.

The eight consecutive Big Ten wins is also the team’s longest win streak in conference play since the 1940-’41 season, when UW won the lone national championship in program history.

Kaminsky scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half on 11-16 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds to record his conference-leading 10th double-double of the season.

“I thought Kaminsky was terrific,” said Illinois head coach John Groce. “I’ve watched him play a lot and I certainly think he is one of the country’s best players. Today he definitely played like it.”

Koenig, meanwhile, hit a trio of 3-pointers and scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half and had four assists compared to zero turnovers, the fourth time in eight starts that he finished the game with no turnovers.

“The first thing I look at when I see the box score is my assist-to-turnover ratio,” Koenig said. “I guess I didn’t have any turnovers, so I was happy with that.”

Sophomore forward Nigel Hayes and junior forward Sam Dekker each finished the game with double-digit scoring as well, recording 14 and 10 points, respectively. Four of Dekker’s 10 points came courtesy of a pair of thunderous dunks that helped ignite the Kohl Center crowd in the first half.

Sophomore guard Malcolm Hill scored 15 points to lead the Fighting Illini, who came into Madison riding a four-game winning streak. Redshirt senior guard Rayvonte Rice also chipped in 10 points, but was held to just 4-12 shooting.

The Badgers got off to a hot start in the first half, jumping out to a 10-2 lead in the first 5:38 of the game. However, the Illini answered right back, hitting 3-pointers on three straight possessions over a span of 1:19 to take an 11-10 lead.

The game turned into a seesaw battle for much of the remainder of the half, before Wisconsin went on a 12-2 run to take a 32-24 lead into the locker room. Kaminsky scored his 17 points on 8-9 shooting and UW outscored the Illini 22-6 in the paint during the half.

Though Illinois was able to hold Kaminsky scoreless for nearly 16 minutes in the second half, Koenig and Hayes combined to score 23 points to help Wisconsin maintain a comfortable lead during the final 20 minutes of the game.

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The victory was the 727th in the career of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, who was announced Saturday as one of 12 finalists to be considered for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as part of its class of 2015.

Ryan received a standing ovation when recognized prior to tip-off, and became emotional when asked during his postgame press conference about the possibility of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“It would be a thank you to all the people that I’ve either played for, played with, and all the administrators, all the faculty at all the schools, and the players, obviously,” Ryan said. “If that would put a smile on the face of the 12th man that I had at Brookhaven Junior High School, Sun Valley, Platteville, Milwaukee, Madison, I’d be real happy.”

The Badgers will look to win their ninth in a row Wednesday night when they travel to University Park to take on Penn State (3-10, 15-11).

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