CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — On Sunday, Illinois desperately needed a win.

The Illini were in the middle of a stretch of five games against ranked opponents and were slipping deeper in the Big Ten, watching their post season chances dim.

Wisconsin, the one unranked team in that five-game run, looked like the best chance to get a win, but it didn't work out that way.

The Illini (15-8, 2-7 Big Ten) didn't find their shot until it was too late and struggled defensively on the way to a 74-68 loss.

"Unfortunately right now, I think our answer to playing hard is to foul and be undisciplined," said Illinois coach John Groce, who drew a technical foul himself Sunday for heatedly arguing a call with an official. "We can't be on five different islands defensively," Groce said. "It's a team game."

Illinois has now lost seven of the past nine games and has fallen to 10th in the 12-team Big Ten.

On Sunday, a pair of players who grew up in Illinois did most of the damage.

Frank Kaminsky scored a career-high 19 points and Ben Brust had 20 points. Both are from the Chicago area.

"We just took it out on them," said Kaminsky, who had a number of relatives in the crowd. "I wanted to come and play well in front of my family."

Since Kaminsky was poked in the eye in a game at Indiana on Jan. 15, he had played a total of four minutes for Wisconsin.

The win keeps the Badgers (15-7, 6-3) in fifth place in the Big Ten.

Illinois gave up 40 second-half points to the Badgers, and sent Wisconsin to the free-throw line 42 times. The Badgers made 28.

"At some point it can't be acceptable for them to score like the way they did," said center Nnanna Egwu, who had 14 points and seven rebounds. "We just made too many mistakes on the defensive end."

Illinois was led by Joseph Bertrand's 17 points. Besides Egwu, three other Illini scored in double figures: Brandon Paul — who came off the bench for the first time this season — had 13 points and D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams scored 10 each.

Neither team was effective offensively over the first 20 minutes. Wisconsin shot under 30 percent for most of the first half and combined with the Illini to score 14 points in the game's first eight minutes.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said the teams' defenses deserve some credit for that.

"You have to give credit to the defense in the Big Ten," he said. "It's time or people do that."

The Illini closed the gap on the Badgers very late — they shot 54 percent in the second half — but trailed by 15 with 5:13 to play.

The Badgers built that big lead on defense and a run of impatient Illini shooting.

First, Myke Henry missed on a long 3-pointer, answered quickly by Berggren, whose short bucket put Wisconsin up 53-41 with 8:54 to play.

Then, after a quick miss on a 3-point try by Richardson, Evans sank a jump shot from the corner for a 55-41 edge.

"I thought we had a stretch there in the second half where we went too much hero ball," Groce said.

Wisconsin survived a run by the Illini early in the half.

Illinois closed to 35-30 on a dunk by Egwu and had a chance to narrow that gap by two more when Bertrand stole the ball and fed Henry as he sprinted down court. But Henry, who plays just 10 minutes a game, missed the dunk. And an Assembly Hall crowd ready to explode instead could do nothing but groan.

Given that reprieve, the Badgers made Illinois pay.

Wisconsin went on an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from a wide-open Kaminsky — so open he hesitated before taking the shot, glancing as if to look for a pass that might be the better option. And just like that the Badgers were up 43-30 with 14:33 to play.

Kaminsky, wearing protective goggles for his eye, played 23 minutes off the bench on Sunday.

The Badgers shot 55.6 percent in the second half, and went to the free-throw line 31 times over those 20 minutes, hitting 19.

Wisconsin shot 35.5 percent from the field in the first half. Illinois made 29.6 percent.

Illinois, though, took the lead 16-14 on a 3-pointer by Richardson with 8:21 left in the first half.

It looked like a sign that the Illini might be about to find something resembling touch. That didn't happen, but the Badgers started clawing their way out of their own shooting funk. They went on a 19-8 run to finish the half ahead, 33-24.

Two of those points came on Brust's layup with 1:33 to play in the half. The basket was initially denied by a shot clock violation but, after Wisconsin's players pointed out that fewer than 20 seconds had actually elapsed on the shot clock. But it took a lengthy discussion by the officials after Illinois' next possession to get it right.

"I looked up at the shot clock and there was 8 seconds (left)," Ryan said. "We're thinking, there's no way, there had to be more time. So we said excuse us, I think you ought to review that, and they did."

The delay, several minutes long, quieted the crowd and, once the points had been put on the scoreboard, agitated Groce.

His frustration boiled over on the half's final possession when he thought Paul was fouled on the way to the basket.

Groce, angry, repeatedly shouted at official Mike Sanzere as the teams left the court. Sanzere gave Groce a technical foul.

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Follow David Mercer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidmercerap