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Domask’s homecoming helps No. 13 Illinois win 91-83 to continue Wisconsin’s slide

Illinois' Marcus Domask (3) shoots against Wisconsin's Tyler Wahl (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Madison, Wis.

MADISON, Wis. — Marcus Domask hadn’t played a game at the Kohl Center since his high school career ended five years ago with a loss in the state championship game.

He made sure his first game back finished differently. Domask returned to his home state and scored 31 points as No. 13 Illinois continued its recent mastery of Wisconsin by defeating the slumping Badgers 91-83 on Saturday.

Domask, who went to high school about 60 miles northeast of Madison in Waupun, Wisconsin, said he had about 200-300 friends and relatives scattered around the stands. He knew many of them usually root for the Badgers.

“There were a lot of people that put on an Illinois shirt for the first time today,” Domask said. “And they told me that they loved it, loved the game, but they’re never putting it on again.”

This represented the first time during his college career that the 2019 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball selection from Waupun High had played in his home state. Domask spent four seasons at Southern Illinois before transferring to Illinois.

He celebrated his homecoming by scoring the go-ahead basket and finishing just two points shy of his career high.

“To come home, most guys get a little amped, get a little nervous, and that becomes the moment, is worrying about all that other stuff,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “He just focuses on the game, and that’s a unique quality, it really is.”

Terrence Shannon Jr. added 23 points as Illinois beat Wisconsin for the sixth straight time, which represents the Illini’s longest winning streak in the series since it took 16 in a row over the Badgers from 1981-89. Wisconsin beat Illinois 15 consecutive times before this stretch.

The Illini also became the first visiting team to win four straight at the Kohl Center, which has served as the Badgers’ home arena since 1998.

Illinois (22-7, 13-5 Big Ten) is 1 1/2 games behind No. 2 Purdue in the Big Ten standings, with the Boilermakers hosting Michigan State on Saturday night. Wisconsin (18-11, 10-8) has lost seven of its last nine.

The Badgers came out inspired and took an early 14-5 lead after a pregame ceremony featuring former Badgers assistant coach Howard Moore’s first public appearance at Kohl Center since a May 2019 car wreck that killed Moore’s wife and daughter and left him seriously injured.

But they couldn’t close the deal as their late-season slide continued.

“It’s just the matter of fact of how we’re going to finish games out,” said Wisconsin’s Chucky Hepburn, who scored 15 points. “We’ve got to figure it out very quick or … it’s going to be a quick March for us.”

Wisconsin also got 20 points from Tyler Wahl, 16 from Max Klesmit and 13 from AJ Storr.

After Wisconsin’s John Blackwell sank a 3-pointer to tie the game at 68-all with 5:44 remaining, Domask scored six points during a 13-3 run that enabled Illinois to seize control. Domask started the spurt with a basket that put the Illini ahead for good with 5:25 left.

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: The Illini have scored at least 80 points in nine straight games, their longest such streak since the 1988-89 team collected 80-plus points in 12 consecutive games on its way to the Final Four. They shot 51.8% and won their third straight with a impressive performance amid a hostile environment.

Wisconsin: As poorly as they’ve played lately, the Badgers still are probably assured of an NCAA Tournament berth. Wisconsin entered Saturday as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed in most bracket projections. But their postseason run won’t last long unless they step up their defense.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

This is a quality road win that should move Illinois a step or two closer to the top 10.

UP NEXT

Illinois: Hosts No. 2 Purdue on Tuesday.
Wisconsin: Hosts Rutgers on Thursday.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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