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Tucker, Wisconsin outlast pesky Illinois

Jan 21, 2007 - 2:23 AM CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Alando Tucker provided another reason why he is the best player in the Big Ten Conference - his hustle.

Tucker scored 17 points and came up with a crucial loose ball with just over one minute remaining as third-ranked Wisconsin survived a tough challenge from Illinois for a 71-64 Big Ten Conference victory.

Kammron Taylor had 20 points as the Badgers (19-1, 5-0 Big Ten) were able to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games by continuing the Fighting Illini's struggles at home. Wisconsin had lost its last seven games here.

Although it dropped its third game here under coach Bruce Weber for the first time in four seasons, Illinois (14-7, 2-4) gave Wisconsin fits, grabbing a 62-59 lead on a jumper by Chester Frazier with 4:04 remaining.

"I can't complain about our effort, it was good," Weber said. "We just didn't do a good job at the end of shot-clocks plays, and there was some poor execution down the stretch. Part of that's my fault, but we've made some progress, and now we have to get ready for Tuesday night (vs. Indiana)."

Although Wisconsin's Greg Stiemsma answered back with four straight points, the Badgers faced a cruical possession holding a 63-62 edge with 90 seconds to go.

Tucker, the Big Ten Conference preseason Player of the Year and league's second-leading scorer, drove the ball towards the lane to add to the lead but was forced to pass along the baseline, eventually setting up a 3-point shot from the left side of the key by Taylor.

Although Taylor's shot was blocked by Brian Randle, Tucker out-jumped Frazier for the loose ball and pushed it to Taylor while laying on the floor. Taylor made Tucker's hustle pay off by sinking a jumper as the shot clock wound down.

"It hurts," Randle said. "We didn't get some breaks we thought we would get and we didn't make shots. We let them get some rebounds and get their heads up."

After Randle split two free throws, the Badgers' Marcus Landry hit a shot in the lane as he was whistled for a charge, giving Wisconsin a 67-63 lead with 32 seconds left.

Taylor and Michael Flowers both sank two free throws down the stretch as the Badgers outscored the Illini, 12-2, over the final 3:48.

Tucker finished 6-of-18 from the floor with eight rebounds and Stiemsma scored eight of his career-high 12 points in the second half for Wisconsin.

"I thought Steimsma hitting those shots (in the second half) was a back breaker for us," Weber said.

Taylor converted all eight of his free throws for the Badgers, who finished 18-of-21 (85.7 percent) from the stripe.

Shaun Pruitt tied a season high with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds for Illinois. The junior center did have to leave the game late in the contest with a hip injury before returning in the closing seconds.

"It really doesn't matter because we didn't get the win," he said about his production. "I just wanted to play as hard as I could as long as I could tonight. I think the team did that. That's why this loss is so disappointing, because we all played hard."

The fourth-best team in the Big Ten in scoring defense, the Badgers appeared to put the game on ice after Taylor scored five points and Stiemsma added four during a 12-3 run that gave them a 51-43 advantage with 9:42 remaining.

However, the Illini shot right back, scoring seven of the game's next nine points. They later pulled ahead when Rich McBride's 3-pointer snapped a 57-57 tie with 5:07 left.

Landry, who finished with six points in 16 minutes off the bench, came back with a jumper for Wisconsin before Frazier gave Illinois its ill-fated 62-59 edge.

McBride finished with four 3-pointers and 15 points and Frazier and Warren Carter scored nine each for the Illini, who finished 40.7 percent (22-of-54) from the field and 60.9 percent (14-of-23) on free throws.