What seems to be a typical Wisconsin team in terms of its hard-nosed, fundamental play is in position to accomplish something never done in school history.
Illinois can do something last achieved by its famed "Flying Illini" team 25 seasons ago.
One of these teams will improve to 3-0 in Big Ten play Wednesday night when the fourth-ranked Badgers look to go 16-0 for the first time as they host the No. 23 Fighting Illini.
Wisconsin has matched the best start in school history, 15-0 marks set by the 1911-12 team and matched two seasons later. The Badgers commit the fewest turnovers in the country at 8.5 per game, have four players with scoring averages of at least 10.0 points and have seen eight different players score in double digits in a game.
"They really play the game the right way,' Illinois coach John Groce said. "They play together at both ends of the floor and they do not beat themselves. They don't turn it over, they make free throws late, they make the extra pass. All the little discipline and detail things that I think are important, they do well.'
Illinois (13-2) has won four straight and seeks its first 3-0 Big Ten start in three seasons. The Illini have lost 12 straight road games against top 5 opponents since Nick Anderson's 35-footer at the buzzer beat Indiana 70-67 on March 5, 1989 - part of that team's Final Four season.
Groce's club also makes few mistakes since it averages 10.3 turnovers. But the biggest change from last season's club that finished 23-13 is the addition of Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice, averaging 18.7 points to rank among the Big Ten's leaders.
"Number one, they are playing well together," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "They found another scorer, Rice has given them a lot. There's a lot of talent on that team, and coach Groce has them playing has them working together and doing some things.
"We know what we're in store for. Whether we can answer all their challenges will remain to be seen."
Wisconsin answered the challenge Sunday, rallying from its first halftime deficit. The Badgers trailed by 11 at the break before using a 51-point second half for a 75-71 home win over then-No. 22 Iowa.
"We haven't really been in that type of situation yet this year," guard Josh Gasser said. "It was great to see us respond the way we did."
Ben Brust scored his 19 points all in the second half as Wisconsin improved to 190-18 at home under Ryan.
The Badgers have won five straight in this series, using strong first halves in two meetings last season. They led by 20 at the break of a 74-51 rout Jan. 12 at home and by nine in a 74-68 win Feb. 3.
Illinois will hit the Big Ten road for the first time after home wins over Indiana and Penn State last week. Rice showed few jitters in his new conference with 44 total points.
"I was really proud of our guys the first week of Big Ten play," Groce said.
Wisconsin seems to have a big edge in 3-point shooting. The Badgers are among the best in the Big Ten at 39.6 percent while only lowly Northwestern is faring worse than Illinois' 32.0 mark.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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