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Wisconsin men’s basketball: Rutgers recap

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The Badgers take down Rutgers for a nice bounce-back win.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough loss earlier in the week at the hands of Michigan, the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (11-3 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) were back in action Friday evening with a chance to get back on track against Rutgers (7-5 overall, 3-5 Big Ten).

The Badgers entered the game without a win over Rutgers in Piscataway since RU joined the conference, and the Scarlet Knights welcomed back top recruit, 6-foot-11 freshman center Clifford Omoruyi to the rotation after a five game absence. In a big game in the Big Ten, it was Wisconsin who was able to gut out a close win on the road.

To open the game, the Badgers got off to a strong start to take a 13-4 lead at the 13:30 mark behind nine early points by Brad Davison with two three-point makes from deep. Overall Wisconsin appeared to bring more energy to begin the game than in the previous few games and that helped them snag the early advantage.

Rutgers was able to find a rhythm however and managed to tighten the deficit to only three points before Aleem Ford was able to end a 9-2 run with a beautiful drive to the rim for an and-one. Ford would follow that play up with a nice jumper, as Wisconsin was able to push their advantage back to seven points with 5:23 remaining in the half.

To close out the first half, Rutgers was able to go on a run while the Badgers were without D’Mitrik Trice due to foul trouble. Shaky shot selection and three turnovers by the Badgers allowed the Scarlet Knights to narrow the lead to only one point at the intermission.

In the opening minutes of the second half Rutgers was able to take a their first lead since early in the game, but the Wisconsin was able to regain their footing quickly to retake a slight edge.

Neither team was able to muster much on the offensive end for nearly eight minutes of game action, but by the 7:30 mark Wisconsin was up 46-44 due to some transition opportunities.

Wisconsin was able to put together a 12-0 run led by D’Mitrik Trice over the next three minutes to grab momentum in the game though. Ultimately, thanks to clutch free throw shooting, the Badgers were able to win a nail biter over Rutgers, 60-54.

Notable stat lines:

  • Aleem Ford —> 14 points (5-of-12 from the floor), six rebounds, four blocks
  • Brad Davison —> 14 points (3-of-12 from the floor), seven rebounds, three steals
  • D’Mitrik Trice—> 13 points (4-of-8 from the floor), four rebounds, five assists
  • Jacob Young —> 19 points (9-of-15 from the floor), two rebounds, three assists

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Lineup shakeup

A multi-year starter for the Badgers over the course of his career, Nate Reuvers came off the bench against Rutgers. In his place, sophomore Tyler Wahl earned the starting nod.

The move was likely based on matching up with the guard heavy Scarlet Knights, but it was nonetheless notable that Wahl was inserted in the starting five and that Micah Potter remained in the lineup instead of Reuvers.

The move seemed to payoff well for the Badgers in the win, but it will be interesting to see if the move turns out to be a one-time thing, or if Greg Gard changes his lineup more frequently this season moving forward.

No. 2: Energy

After a flat performance against Michigan in which the Badgers were severely outworked, Greg Gard’s bunch played with much more intensity against Rutgers.

The Wisconsin bench was active and engaged in the game, and there was a greater sense of urgency by the team throughout.

In their three losses this season the discrepancy in overall energy has very apparent. On Friday night, in an arena in which the Badgers have traditionally struggled, the aggressiveness of the team was much improved.

Overall the game was not pretty, but it was a positive sign to see some life from the Badgers on both ends of the court at times. This game was a gritty win that hopefully turns the tide moving forward.

No. 3: Rim protection

Points in the paint and offensive rebounds once again haunted the Badgers.

Rutgers was able to pour in too many of their 54 total points inside the paint, and also snagged 20 offensive rebounds despite their second tallest starter only standing 6-foot-6. Wisconsin continues to struggle with protecting the rim and grabbing rebounds, and that shouldn’t happen with two big men as talented as Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter.

In the end Wisconsin was able to do enough to win, but the trend of getting beaten inside can’t continue for the Badgers if they want to contend for a Big Ten Championship.

The more puzzling part of the game, however, was that the Badgers seemed reluctant to test Rutgers inside offensively. Instead, Wisconsin relied heavily on jump shots and three-pointers against the Scarlet Knights.

For the game, Wisconsin only shot 24% from three, but were insistent on settling for triples (they shot 25 for the game).

Up next: After a slight scheduling switch in the conference, Wisconsin will now host Northwestern next week Wednesday, January 20. Tip-time is set for 8 p.m. CST and will be aired on Big Ten Network.