The No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers beat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights by five points on Saturday night at The RAC (I’ll NEVER call it Jersey Mike’s Arena) to exact some revenge for two weeks ago when RU won at the Kohl Center.
UW is all alone in first place in the Big Ten with one week of the regular season remaining and that is one of the last sentences I ever expected to be writing at the end of this season. This team has been a joy to watch and, I’ll probably have to dive deeper into this once the offseason starts, it might be the most fun I’ve ever had watching Wisconsin hoops.
Wisconsin #Badgers men’s basketball: UW wins at RAC, will enter final week of season alone in first place— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 27, 2022
UW wins another close game, beating RU by five on Saturday night, thanks to some late "winning plays" from Johnny Davis and crew. https://t.co/tB1XurlQ8d pic.twitter.com/CeEJkBgOtS
Three things that stood out...
No. 1: winning time
When these two teams met in Madison two weeks ago the Badgers had a one point lead with 4:03 remaining in the game. They didn’t score another point until there was 30 seconds left, going over four minutes of game time without one. They turned the ball over three times, they missed all four shots they took and they ended up losing by eight points.
On Saturday evening in Piscataway, things were different.
Rutgers took their first lead of the game with 7:28 left in the game and then they took another lead with 5:53 remaining on a Geo Baker layup. Johnny Davis immediately answered Baker’s layup with one of his own and the Badgers never trailed again.
Chucky Hepburn made a big three over those final six minutes. Brad Davison made a brilliant pass to a cutting Tyler Wahl for a layup with 1:13 to go. Hepburn picked Ron Harper, Jr.’s pocket. Davis made four free throws in the final 37 seconds and corralled the game-winning rebound with four seconds left.
The Badgers made winning plays at the end of their second game against Rutgers where they didn’t in the first game. Wisconsin is now 3-0 in “revenge games,” and 14-1 in “close” games, this season and that speaks to the players having that dog in them and the coaches correcting their mistakes and installing a winning game plan.
No. 2: points in the paint
Wisconsin was outscored in the paint 36-20 by Rutgers. That’s not great, but there are a few reasons for it! Normally Wahl is doing a lot of his damage in the post, but on Saturday he only took five shots (making four) and two of them were from the three point line (one was a made three pointer and the other was a made two pointer with his foot on the line). The UW offense seems to rotate who is going to score the most in support of Davis and this game it was Wahl’s turn to take a backseat to other guys.
Big Steve also had a bit of an off game shooting the ball. Coming off his career-high performance against Minnesota he had a let down against Rutgers. As a team, Wisconsin was 6-of-8 at the rim but only 4-of-13 in the paint. This wasn’t a “big guys” problem, this was a “the whole team didn’t shoot so hot close to the basket” problem.
The Scarlet Knights have a long, active defense and they blocked five shots which plays a part in this too. As you’ll see in observation No. 3 below, the poor shooting near the basket wasn’t a deal-breaker because the shooting far away from the basket was much improved.
No. 3: three point shooting
Entering Saturday night’s game, the Badgers were the worst three point shooting team in the Big Ten. After winning Saturday night’s game, and shooting 45% (9-of-20) from deep, they...are now tied for last place in the Big Ten!
UW’s poor season-long shooting from deep aside, they had a great game from beyond the arc against Rutgers. Davison busted out of his shooting slump, going 4-of-8 from long range, and Hepburn went 2-of-4 to lead the charge. Hell, even Wahl made a three pointer and that’s as rare as me making a mistake in any of my posts.
GOING TO SET FIRE TO MY PANTS!— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) February 27, 2022
CHUCKY FOR THHREEEEEE
On the other side of things, the Scarlet Knights only made four threes on 17 attempts (23.5%). In their first meeting, Rutgers was 7-of-12 from deep and it was a big reason why they left the Kohl Center with the win. In short, making threes is good and missing them is bad.
Up next: The first place Badgers return home for a massive showdown with second place Purdue on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN. A win there and they’ll clinch the Big Ten title. Be there, be loud, win a trophy.