Looking for their fourth straight conference victory, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (17-10 overall, 10-6 B1G) welcomed the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (18-10 overall, 9-8 B1G) to the Kohl Center Sunday afternoon.
The Badgers came into the game sporting a nearly flawless record at home (12-1), while Rutgers entered with a 1-6 record on the road this season.
After falling to the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway back in the middle of December, Wisconsin was able to get revenge the old fashioned way with a 79-71 win to propel the Badgers into a tie for second place in the Big Ten.
To start the game, both teams came out the gates firing at over 66% shooting prior to the first media timeout. A big reason for the tremendous shooting, and a Wisconsin lead, was the outstanding play of Nate Reuvers. The junior big man scored 11 of the Badgers first 17 points before getting a breather.
At the midway mark in the first half, the Badgers held a 10 point — 28 to 18 — lead as each team continued a torrid shooting pace.
Shortly thereafter though, Rutgers and Wisconsin suffered scoring droughts, as the two teams came back to earth. As a result, the Badger lead was cut to five points with five minutes remaining.
Over the final few minutes of the first half, Wisconsin was able to balloon the lead a bit, and went into halftime with a 13-point advantage.
Intermission time.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 23, 2020
Wisconsin up 39 to 26. Both teams shooting 50% or better from the field.
Nate Reuvers leads the way with 14 points.
Brevin Pritzl with nine points, four rebounds.
Micah Potter with eight points, six rebounds.
In the second half, Rutgers would claw their way back into the game thanks to an early scoring explosion by Ron Harper Jr. to cut the deficit to 10 points.
However, Wisconsin would respond quickly. The Badgers would go an a 8-0 run to extend the lead back out to 16 points midway in the second half.
Rutgers would not relent though, as Wisconsin was pushed by the Scarlet Knights all night long. A 7-0 run cut the lead to only six points with 2:50 left, but D’Mitrik Trice would be clutch down the final few minutes.
Wisconsin would hold off Rutgers to secure a big eight point home victory, 79-71.
Game Ova!— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 23, 2020
Wisconsin makes it four-straight wins, taking down Rutgers 79-71.
The #Badgers had four players in double-digits, and are now tied for second place in the Big Ten.
Notable stat lines:
- Nate Reuvers —> 17 points (4-of-13 from the floor), one rebound
- Brevin Pritzl —> 17 points (7-of-10 from the floor), four rebounds, one assist
- Micah Potter —> 18 points (6-of-8 from the floor), nine rebounds, two blocks
- D’Mitrik Trice —> eight points (2-of-4-from the floor), two rebounds, nine assists
- Ron Harper Jr. (Rutgers) —> 21 points (9-of-16 from the floor), nine rebounds
Micah Potter on just having fun this season pic.twitter.com/RzaxBWEPcj— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) February 23, 2020
Three things that stood out:
No. 1: Inside-Out
In the first half, the two teams shot extremely well from the field. However, the ways in which they went about it was very different.
Rutgers did nearly all of their damage inside, with 20 of their 26 team points coming from within the paint. Rutgers was also 0-for-6 from three-point range in the first half.
For the game, Rutgers would finish with 42 points in the paint and shooting 50% as a team, with a mere four (one via the bank) three-point makes on 14 shots. The Scarlet Knights rank last in the Big Ten in three-point shooting, but the contrast of numbers was heightened on Sunday.
On the flip side, Wisconsin shot extremely well from deep, going 6-of-13 in the first half alone with only 10 points in the paint.
In the second half, the Badgers would continue on the same path, finishing with only 16 points in the paint, but made 11 three-pointers on 50% shooting from deep.
D’Mitrik Trice on why the team is clicking pic.twitter.com/FOezhSUO4S— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) February 23, 2020
No. 2: Pace yourself
Over the past four games, Wisconsin has picked up the pace. Wisconsin has now scored over 69 points in all four contests, after averaging 61 points per game in their previous nine Big Ten games.
Against Rutgers, the Badgers shot the ball well with 1.197 points per possession, but were also able to run the floor with Scarlet Knights. At a Wisconsin may have found a new recipe for success, and it has led to improved play across the team.
The Badgers are now in a four-way tie for second place in the conference thanks to their winning streak. If point guard D’Mitrik Trice continues to push the pace, and distribute the ball at an exceptional rate (nine assists against Rutgers) Wisconsin will be in good hands moving forward.
HOLY SHIT!— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 23, 2020
Dish & Dunk! Trice to Potter.
No. 3: Pick me up
Thrust back into the starting lineup, Brevin Pritzl responded. The lone senior on the team, Pritzl scored 17 points, while the Badgers got significant double-digit contributions from Micah Potter, Nate Reuvers and Brad Davison as well.
On the season, Reuvers is the only player on the roster averaging 10 points or more, but the Badgers continue to get scoring help from a variety of sources.
Against Rutgers, seven players recorded a basket. On a team lacking a dominant go-to threat, players have sporadically jumped out to score in noteworthy fashion. The scoring distribution will continue to be something to monitor as March looms, as Wisconsin will need help from everyone within the rotation down the stretch.
Greg Gard on the growth of D’Mitrik Trice: pic.twitter.com/Cz2o4xF1sk— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) February 23, 2020
Up next: The Badgers will look to make it five wins in a row with a big road game against Michigan on Thursday night. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CST on ESPN2.