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Wisconsin vs. Rutgers: Scarlet Knights shock undermanned Badgers

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Missing a pair of its senior leaders down the stretch, Wisconsin buckled under pressure of Rutgers' second-half barrage Sunday evening.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

If you have followed Wisconsin basketball under Bo Ryan for very long, you know what their mindset was when they found out senior center Frank Kaminsky would miss the game with concussion-like symptoms.

Next man in.

In the first half, the adage held true for Wisconsin. First-time starter Bronson Koenig had five points, while the Badger bench chipped in seven more. Behind the all-around game of Nigel Hayes and an aggressive Sam Dekker, Wisconsin seemed to have everything under control at Rutgers, securing a 35-23 lead going into halftime.

But the start of the second half was all Rutgers. Spurred by two emphatic dunks by 6'9" forward Kadeem Jack and red-hot shooting from senior guard Myles Mack, the Scarlet Knights went on a 23-10 run to tie the game with 12:19 left to play, bringing the home faction of the Rutgers Athletic Center crowd to life.

The shooting and dunking didn't stop there, as Rutgers (10-7, 2-2 Big Ten) took control and held on to upset No. 4 Wisconsin, 67-62, in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Rutgers would take its first lead of the game, 54-53, on two Mack free throws with just over seven minutes remaining as the Scarlet Knights relentlessly attacked a Badger interior defense missing its anchor and rim protector. The emotion carried Rutges to its first win over a top-five team in school history.

"They started hitting shots, we let them get into the paint too easily -- myself included," Dekker said, "and gave them a lot of momentum. They rode that wave pretty long."

Jack led the way, whether starting in the post or driving from the perimeter. With no Kaminsky to clog the middle, Jack's energy was contagious and his teammates beat UW's defense for several big dunks of their own to maintain the Rutgers lead over Wisconsin (15-2, 3-1) down the stretch.

Coming into the game averaging 49 points per game, Rutgers showed few signs of improvement for the first 20 minutes Sunday, giving the many Badger fans in attendance reason to cheer. Rutgers posted only one assist and missed all four of its three-point attempts, scoring just 0.79 points per possession.

On the other end, Rutgers had no answer for Hayes operating at the top of the key. The sophomore tallied seven points, nine rebounds and four assists in the first half alone. Dekker was equally aggressive driving to the hole in Kaminsky's absence, scoring nine early points.

However, it was Wisconsin who could not match the unexpected offensive explosion from Rutgers after the break. The Mack (21) and Jack (20) attack combined for 41 points for Rutgers, as the Big Ten's worst shooting team hit 16-of-24 shots (66.7 percent) and 5-of-7 from deep en route to 44 second-half points.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin's' "next man in" effort began to falter. Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan began to double-team Hayes in the post, which seemed to disrupt the Badger offense.

"They were doubling me in the post and I was trying my best to find open guys," Hayes said. "Shots weren't falling, but still that's no excuse to allow the other team to go down there and let them hits shots on offense."

The Badgers stayed cold from outside and struggled mightily when given easy opportunities from the free throw line, stunting their ability to hang with the Scarlet Knights. Wisconsin hit 9-of-24 shots (37.5 percent) from the floor and only 6-of-12 free throws after halftime, including two critical misses on the front ends of bonus chances.

To make matters worse, Wisconsin lost another key senior just as Rutgers was gaining momentum.

As Mack sank his fourth consecutive three-pointer to knot the game at 46-46, Wisconsin guard Traevon Jackson landed on Mack's foot and appeared to roll his ankle. Jackson left the game with a foot injury and did not return.

Over the next 10 minutes, the Badgers made only two field goals as Rutgers opened up a seven-point lead. With Gasser on the bench with four fouls, at one point UW had a lineup of Dekker, Hayes, Koenig, Duje Dukan and Zak Showalter on the floor trying to battle back on the road.

After outscoring Rutgers 20-14 inside in the opening half, Wisconsin was outscored 20-6 from the paint in the second. The Scarlet Knights won the battle from the outside too.

Though Josh Gasser was his normal self -- diving on the floor for loose balls, calling heady timeouts and saving the ball out of bounds -- he struggled to hit his open looks, missing all four three-pointers he took.

Conversely, little-used senior Malick Kone went for a season-high seven points for Rutgers. His rainbow three from the corner (just the eighth of his career) cut Wisconsin's lead to 45-43 with 13:01 left. It was just one of those days for the Badgers.

Koenig shot very well in his first starting role, filling in for Kaminsky. The sophomore from La Crosse went 5-of-7 for 12 points in the loss, adding three assists in 31 minutes.


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