Senior Day is a college basketball tradition at every school.

Seniors playing well on Senior Day is a tradition at the University of Wisconsin.

Sometimes it has been stars, other times it has been subs, but the seniors on the UW men's team always seem to leave a lasting impression in their final game at the Kohl Center.

Rob Wilson kept that grand tradition alive Sunday afternoon.

Wilson, whose four seasons at UW have been more promise than production on the court, continued his late-career surge in the Badgers' 70-56 victory over Illinois.

The 6-foot-4 swingman came off the bench 17 seconds into the game and sparked UW to a 14-2 lead with a pair of 3-point baskets. The struggling Illini never recovered, giving the 14th-ranked Badgers a three-game winning streak and a ton of confidence heading into the Big Ten Conference tournament.

"Wilson stepped up and made some big shots for them," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "He got them the lead."

Guard Jordan Taylor, UW's only other senior, also hit two early 3s and finished with 16 points. But that's expected of Taylor, the Badgers' leading scorer and a preseason all-American. Wilson's spark wasn't something anyone was counting on, though it was welcomed heartily by his teammates.

"It's great to see," center Jared Bergren said. "I love seeing Rob play well, especially on Senior Night. (It's great) for him to go out ending his Kohl Center career with a good game and bringing that energy and intensity like he did."

Fact is, Wilson has been doing that for a couple of weeks now. Like several of his teammates, Wilson has become more confident and aggressive on offense down the stretch of the Big Ten season.

He finished with eight points Sunday, giving him 32 in his last four games. In UW's first 14 Big Ten games, he totaled 26. His two 3-point baskets gave him seven in the last four games compared to eight in the season's first 27.

After playing fitfully on offense for much of the season, UW is now getting more consistent scoring from players such as Wilson, Josh Gasser and Ryan Evans. Wilson's emergence is particularly helpful because he's one of the few Badgers who can slash to the rim from the wing.

"He's been huge for us these last couple of weeks," Berggren said. "He's come in and hit some big shots. He's playing great defense and bringing a lot of energy off the bench. I think it makes us so much better as a team. ... I'm sure he'll keep it up. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. It's good to see. Hopefully, he can keep things rolling like that into tournament play. I'm sure he's going to be a big spark for us from here on out."

That's the plan. Of course, that was the plan all along and it never materialized until recently.

Wilson looked like he might be working his way into the rotation last season but was relegated to the bench after a couple of late-game mistakes in a loss at Michigan State. Sunday, UW coach Bo Ryan said Wilson also was held back by an undisclosed injury.

"Last year was the year where I just really felt he could get some quality minutes in the games ... but he was hurt," Ryan said. "It was an injury that, to me, it prevented his explosiveness, which is what he can bring to the table. Now (he has) some confidence because he does have that explosiveness back and he's recognizing things a little better. We still live in a world where you have to get things done. It's not how you look, it's 'Are you getting things done?' And the numbers tell the story."

It's a great story, too. Despite his lack of playing time, Wilson never once complained publicly about his situation or let it get him down.

Now, he's become an important part of UW's postseason equation because he's one of the players who can take the scoring load off of Taylor and Berggren and help the Badgers avoid the scoring droughts that have plagued them all season.

"You've got to give him a lot of credit because he has hung in there and worked at it and improved," Weber said. "And he's a factor for them right now, which gives them another scoring option. He's making some shots, doing the little hustle things that he always does. With him and Evans, if you fight to get to Taylor and if you fight to get to Berggren, now those guys make shots and it makes it tough on your defense."

Indeed, UW is a different team when Wilson is knocking down shots and playing significant minutes. The Badgers reached 70 points for only the second time in Big Ten play and Wilson's Senior Day performance was a big reason for that.

"It's real satisfying," he said. "Better late than never. I'm going to keep going with the mindset that I can help this team coming off the bench and keep trying to be consistent with it."

That would create a happy ending -- for Wilson and for the Badgers.

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