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RECAP: Wisconsin loses in 58-57 stunner to Rutgers

Once again, the Badgers failed to pull out a close contest, this time against Rutgers.

The Wisconsin Badgers lost in a 58-57 stunner to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, falling to 15-11 and 7-9 in conference play.

With the loss, the Badgers continue to fail in gaining any form of momentum, as they haven’t won two straight contests since January 3rd, which has been a big reason why the team currently is stuck toward the bottom half of the conference as the Big 10 tournament nears.

The Badgers got off to a quick 7-2 start within the first three minutes, aided by three-pointers from Chucky Hepburn and Max Klesmit.

However, they could not stop Rutgers guard Cam Spencer, who hit three consecutive three-pointers to give Rutgers the edge before the two sides went back-and-forth for the rest of the half, with each team going on their respective runs, ending the half at 36-34 in favor of the Scarlet Knights.

Both teams were clicking offensively in the first half, shooting well from both inside and beyond the arc, hence the higher-scoring initial period.

The Badgers got valuable contributions from backup guard Jordan Davis, who led the team with 11 points at the half, starter Max Klesmit, who had eight points on 2/4 from three, and Kamari McGee, who played 12 first-half minutes due to foul trouble for Chucky Hepburn.

But, they absolutely couldn’t stop Cam Spencer, who had everything go his way in the first half, scoring 19 points on 6/7 shooting and 5/6 from three, while serving as Rutgers’ primary offensive weapon.

However, as usual, the game was a tale of two halves for the Badgers, as the second half turned into a defensive showdown, with neither team eclipsing 25 points in the final period.

The first ten minutes of the second half were extremely ugly, with the two sides tied at 45 a piece until Cam Spencer got out of a rut for a three-pointer with 8:30 remaining in the contest.

The Badgers, who had shot 1/11 over a seven-minute period in the second half, found a resurgence via their unsung heroes, as Kamari McGee, Max Klesmit, and Jordan Davis hit three-pointers on consecutive drives to give Wisconsin a 54-52 lead with 5:09 left, forcing a Rutgers timeout.

McGee wasn't done yet, hitting another three-pointer at the 3:36 mark to boost Wisconsin’s lead to three before heading to the bench, but that was the last time the Badgers’ saw the ball go into the basket, as they went scoreless to finish the game.

The Badgers went on to miss their final five shots, while the Scarlet Knights were able to score twice in the paint to take the lead, although Wisconsin had several good looks to put the game back in their favor, especially on their final drive when Connor Essegian had an open floater, but couldn't connect.

Wisconsin’s top guards, Chucky Hepburn and Connor Essegian, who had been their primary scorers as of late, were ice cold in the game, combining to shoot 2/17 from the field and 2/13 from three.

While the Badgers enjoyed significant contributions from Max Klesmit, Jordan Davis, and Kamari McGee, they needed much more from their starting five, who underwhelmed when it mattered.

Tyler Wahl, who had seven points and six assists, needs to touch the ball more in sets near the top of the key to avoid the double teams that opposing teams send to the paint.

He saw success and was aggressive when put in those situations, which bolstered Wisconsin’s offense, but they shied away from those sets at the end of the game and the team stalled.

Chucky Hepburn showcased some extra level of aggressiveness in looking to attack the rim, but the guard needs to go up with certain shots, rather than drive with the intention of passing out, as there were several solid looks that the sophomore passed up.

But, with the way that Rutgers elected to defend the Badgers, sending doubles to the post and playing a 2-3 zone at times, Wisconsin needed three-point shots, hence why 63% of their shot selection was from beyond the arc.

Unfortunately, guard Connor Essegian had the worst day of his Badgers career, missing all seven looks from three, including some open shots, adding to the fire.

Now, the Badgers will look to rebound against the Iowa Hawkeyes at home next Wednesday before heading on the road again, with postseason hopes continuing to slide.