MADISON, Wisc. — It's as if Ayo Dosunmu wasn't willing to simply walk out of the Kohl Center on Wednesday night with a loss.
The Illinois sophomore guard rose to the occasion, scored five pivotal points in the final minute-and-a-half and led the Illini to a 71-70 win over Wisconsin — their first win in Madison since Feb. 9, 2010 — to snap a 15-game losing streak to Wisconsin in the process.
Dosunmu hit a layup with 1:25 left to give the Illini a one-point lead, then snagged a rebound on the other end, got the ball back on offense and drilled a 3-pointer with 1:03 left on the clock after crossing up guard Brad Davison. Dosunmu finished with a team-high 18 points and six assists. It was almost a carbon copy of the way Dosunmu closed out an upset win against Michigan State in Champaign last season and a road win at Ohio State.
“Ayo does what Ayo does, a little step back," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "When the game’s on the line, he usually makes those.”
Dosunmu works on that shot. It's in his bag of tricks and it was carefully pulled out of the bag after surveying how the Badgers played him throughout the game. It wasn't just the shot. He had passes to Alan Griffin and Trent Frazier for 3-pointers and lob passes to Kofi Cockburn for dunks.
But the shot sealed it. Again.
"It was a great moment, just getting over that hump," Dosunmu said. "The road kill. Me personally, it was a great shot; a shot that I feel like we needed to help win the game, but it's bigger than me. This is a great win. This is one of the times that we've proven that after we get a win like we did against Purdue that we can come back the next game and do it again and not have any stoppage or any delays. I feel like we did that this game."
Even still, Illinois (11-5, 3-2) had to hold on to its breath after Dosunmu seemingly put the game away. Wisconsin (9-6, 2-2) got a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left by Kobe King to pull back within one point. The Illini inbounded the ball and eventually got it to Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who was fouled. He missed the front end of the one-and-one to give the Badgers the ball back with 15 seconds left.
D'Mitrik Trice missed a layup and Griffin got the rebound, tried to kick the ball to Dosunmu, but it went out of bounds. After replay, it was determined the ball went out after time expired. Griffin finished with 12 points and freshman Kofi Cockburn had 15 points and six rebounds.
But Bezhanishvili knew. He was dancing on the floor with his hands up as the referees went to the replay monitor.
"A lot of toughness from the end from us in terms of Giorgi not fouling," Underwood said. "Alan came up with a big rebounds. It's a great road win in what is a best conference in college basketball this year."
Griffin, for his part, helped Illinois erase a six-point deficit late in the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game and set up Dosunmu's heroics down the stretch. It was another in what's a growing list of strong games for Griffin, who played sporadically in the first half because of foul trouble. Illinois was called for 22 personal fouls, which put Wisconsin in the bonus for most of the second half. Griffin only played 18:27, but was 4-of-5 from the field and 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. His biggest shots came down the stretch. He had just three points at halftime.
If you're ready and prepared, Griffin said, coming off the bench and needing a big shot isn't a challenge.
"I didn't let that get to me," Griffin said of early foul trouble. "We're on the road, most likely you're not going to have it go your way. Everyone was just like, 'Be composed and stay locked in.' I shoot. That's something I do and Ayo and Giorgi were like, 'We already know you're going to knock it down,' that gave me confidence. I also had confidence in myself."
Between Griffin's big shots and Dosunmu's takeover, Trent Frazier scored three of his six points at the exact right time. Illinois hadn't led for 32 minutes, seven seconds. It took a 20-19 lead with 6:59 left in the first half after Dosunmu dunked in transition. Wisconsin led or was tied every second until Frazier came out of a timeout with 1:54 left in the game and hit a corner 3-pointer to temporarily give the Illini a one-point lead.
"I told Ayo, 'If you see me open even a little bit, look for me and I promise you I'll make it right here,'" Frazier said. "These guys have a lot of confidence in me. I don't know what I shot (before that) 1-for-8, I don't pay attention to the stats. It's about winning. I had to step up and I made a big shot."
The Illini host Rutgers at 11 a.m. Saturday. On Tuesday, Underwood said the next step for his program was to get a win on the road, which have come so infrequently in Big Ten play this season. Illinois recorded just the fourth Big Ten road win of the year. The other 28 conference games have resulted in 24 home wins.
"To quote (New England Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick, 'Rutgers. Rutgers. Rutgers.' If you've all seen that video, you know that's really funny," Underwood deadpanned. "It's on to the next. It's on to the next. You don't get to enjoy these very long, but I'm really proud of 'em. I'm really happy for them and it's on to the next."
PHOTOS: Illinois beats Wisconsin
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25
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