February 9, 2010

McCamey, Tisdale help Illini stun UW

MADISON - Wisconsin jumped on Illinois in the early stages of Tuesday's crucial Big Ten battle to the tune of a 22-11 lead with less than eight minutes left in the opening half.

Then Demetri McCamey decided to take over.

Illinois' junior point guard finished with a game high 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting that not only helped guide the Illini back into a game that looked bleak, but also helped them eventually win and snap Wisconsin's 51-game winning streak at home against unranked Big Ten opponents.

The victory also moves Illinois within a half game of Michigan State, and a potential tie for first in the league should the Spartans falter tonight against Purdue.

"I know I get after Demetri," Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said following the win. "But after the start he was sure good and made plays."

One stretch comes to mind more than any other.

With his team trailing, and seemingly on the verge of getting run out of the Kohl Center and into the Madison cold, McCamey calmly collected himself and hit three consecutive three pointers on three consecutive possessions to spur a 16-5 Illini run that eventually tied the game with less than three minutes to play in the first half.

He was simply remarkable as he hit shots from all over the floor, including a deep bomb that tied the game and forced Bo Ryan to call a timeout late in the first half.

"It's not very often you see guys come in and shoot like that," Ryan, who suffered his first loss against a non-ranked conference opponent at the Kohl Center said. "So I give them credit. They made the shots with hands in their face and we didn't."

But before McCamey provided a flash of energy and a mountain of momentum for Illinois in Tuesday's game the Illini relied heavily on Mike Tisdale.

With Wisconsin jumping out of the gates like it has over the past two games, Tisdale served as the spark that got the engine going when he scored 10 of the team's first 13 points and kept them within striking distance.

"When he kept putting up shots and hitting them, eventually you just hope that the odds go in your favor, as far as shooting percentage goes," UW junior forward Keaton Nankivil, who defended Tisdale most of the night, said. "But we played it one possession at a time. It can be frustrating just because he was knocking them in, but I just took it one possession at a time."

Even with a flurry of points from McCamey and Tisdale, UW actually held a two-point lead when Trevon Hughes scored his 12th and final point at the buzzer from downtown.

But that seemed to be the last time the Badgers had any sort of momentum simply because McCamey and Tisdale wouldn't allow UW to get going from the perimeter.

By the end of the contest, those two Illini players connected on a whopping 68 percent of their combined shots while accounting for 46 of the team's 63 points. In total, Illinois finished with a 53.3 percent shooting clip as a team to UW's 35.7 percent effort.

Wisconsin simply couldn't slow those two players down, particularly the explosive McCamey.

"Basically, he made the long ball all night," Hughes said of McCamey. "If we would stop that, he would be out of the way, but be effective off the ball screen and make tough plays. When we stopped him, he was able to hit Tisdale and Tisdale would make the big shot."

In the second half, both team's traded blows even though it seemed like the Illini were in complete control throughout the final 20 minutes.

The Badgers opened a five-point edge just over three minutes into the final frame, but couldn't expand on it as Tisdale and freshman D.J. Richardson rallied off a quick 5-0 run to tie the game.

After a Jordan Taylor jumper cut the Illini lead to one with just under 10 minutes to play the Badgers entered a deep freeze that was bound to happen when a team relies so much on the outside shot.

From that point on, UW only tallied six more points on a putrid 2-for-16 shooting effort (13 percent) as the three-point shot that has been so effective for the Badgers of late betrayed them. In the end, Wisconsin hit 11-of-29 shots from distance.

"We were right in the right position until the end of the game," Bohannon, who scored a team high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting said. "At two and a half minutes we had to start fouling, and they got away from us. 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."

Even with a miserable shooting display in the closing minutes, UW had a chance to work some of the Kohl Center magic that has been so kind to the Badgers over the years. Down four with just less than two minutes to play, Taylor missed an open layup that would have cut the Illini lead to two.

Instead, the miss was a fitting end to a game where the Badgers simply couldn't catch a break on the shooting front.

"We talked about keeping them on their heels," Weber said. "And it seemed like they were on their heels, and we were on our toes most of the last 10 minutes of the game which is how you're going to win games on the road."

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