Ayo To The Rescue: Illini Star Keys 71-70 Comeback Win at Wisconsin
MADISON, Wis. -- In one way, a streak is over for the Illinois men's basketball team. In quite another way, one may have just begun for them all and surely for sophomore star guard Ayo Dosunmu.
A 15-game losing streak to the Badgers is over and the decade-long losing stretch inside the Kohl Center is a matter of history. The Illini (11-5, 3-2 in Big Ten) made five of their last six shots to earn a 71-70 comeback win over Wisconsin. Dosunmu reintroduced his game to the rest of the college basketball world and the possibility of a star player jumpstarting a run through the final two months of this season could be just starting with a memorable night in Madison.
Dosunmu, who said publicly he returned to Champaign for another year of college basketball for a shot to lead the Illini to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013, had a team-high 18 points including his team's final five points. In Illinois' final five possessions, Dosunmu had the ball in his hands with an opportunity for something positive to happen. In his first two drives, the Chicago native found sharpshooters Alan Griffin and Trent Frazier in the corner for 3-pointers and then the projected NBA draft pick simply took over with a layup and an emotionally breaking step-back 3-pointer to secure the Illini's first win in Madison since 2010.
"What people don't understand is when you make shots like that, it comes from experience (because) you're not going to make every one," Dosunmu said. "You got to deal with the times you fail. I accept that I may fail and I know I've been through the battles, been through the fire and it has led me to be where I am today."
Dosunmu finished with a team-high 18 points and Griffin had nine of his 12 points off the bench in the second half. Illinois turned a lifeless 20 minutes of basketball into a comeback for the ages by shooting an impressive 61.5 percent from the field in the second half. Illinois is now 31-3 all-time under Underwood when they shoot a better percentage than their opponent and move to over .500 in league play in January for the first time since 2014.
Wisconsin (9-6, 2-2) got a game-high 21 points from Kobe King as Illinois went to four different defenders on the 6-foot-4 guard but had little to no success stopping his post action at the block.
Illinois found itself down nearly the entire second half as Wisconsin's slow-down style made possessions extra valuable. With Illinois down by as much as seven with 4:50 left in the game, the script looked to be written as another disappointing road outing for Underwood's Illini program.
"We dealt with some adversity tonight," Underwood said. "I loved our execution late. Ayo does what Ayo usually does. (When) the game is on the line, he usually makes those. A lot of toughness at the end from us. It's a great road win in what is the best conference in college basketball this year."