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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Sun-Times wires

Matthew Mayer’s career-high 26 lead Illinois over Wisconsin

Matthew Mayer drives against Wisconsin’s Connor Essegian on Saturday in Madison, Wis. (Andy Manis/AP)

MADISON, Wis. — Matthew Mayer scored 18 of his career-high 26 points in the second half and Illinois defeated Wisconsin 61-51 on Saturday.

Mayer tied his career high with five 3-pointers and shot 9 of 19 overall. Jayden Epps added 13 points for the Fighting Illini (15-6, 6-4 Big Ten), who have won six of their last seven. 

Chucky Hepburn scored 15 points and Max Klesmit returned from a two-game injury absence to score 12 for the Badgers (12-8, 4-6), losers of three straight and six of seven. 

Mayer scored 10 points in a 22-4 run that began midway through the second half, erasing Wisconsin’s only lead in the half and putting the Illini up by 17 with four minutes remaining.

After the teams combined for the conference’s lowest-scoring first half this season, Illinois got off to a quick start in the second with Mayer scoring eight of the Illini’s first 12 points in taking a 12-point lead. But Wisconsin responded with a 15-2 run with Hepburn hitting a pair of 3-pointers plus a drive that put the Badgers up by a point.

Illinois led 20-16 after the first half. The Illini opened 1-of-7 shooting and Wisconsin 1 of 10 as the teams combined for just five points by the first media timeout. Illinois shot 33% and Wisconsin a dismal 18%, the teams combining to go 15 of 60 overall and 5 of 24 from 3-point range. 

The teams rebounded to both go 13 of 24 from the floor for 54% in the second half. But Illinois was 11 of 18 at the line for the game while Wisconsin was 4 of 7.

Illinois, which beat Wisconsin at home 79-69 on Jan. 7, has won six straight in the series and three in a row in Madison. 

Illinois is host to Nebraska on Tuesday. Wisconsin is at Ohio State on Thursday.

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