Rutgers fails to duplicate last year's favorable result in 79-57 road loss at Wisconsin
As winnable as the game was in the early going against a beatable opponent in Wisconsin, the Rutgers men’s basketball team was unable to keep up over the span of its Big Ten road opener.
Despite climbing back into the contest with a 10-3 run to open the first seven minutes of the second half, the Scarlet Knights couldn’t convert as the Badgers ran away down the stretch to avenge last year’s upset in Piscataway, 79-57.
Rutgers (6-9, 0-2) dropped its second straight conference matchup, with a Big Ten losing streak dating all the way back to last year increasing to 17 games in a row after the latest casualty.
Sophomore guard Mike Williams responded from a woeful 0-for-6 shooting performance earlier in the week where he was scoreless in the Knights’ loss to Indiana, rebounding for a team-high 20 points on a 7-for-11 mark from the field Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
But Rutgers had no answer for Wisconsin (9-6, 1-1) and its red-hot shooting. The Badgers orchestrated their ball movement to perfection, winging the ball around and sinking open outside shots with a 60-percent clip on 8-of-18 shooting from 3-point range.
Zak Showalter didn’t miss — literally. The junior guard racked up a career-high 21 points on a perfect 8-for-8 mark from the field headlined by a spotless 4-for-4 strike from behind the 3-point arc, consistently killing the Knights all game long.
Rutgers came close after sophomore forward D.J. Foreman’s and-one layup for the 3-point play made it a 43-39 ballgame to cap an 8-1 run by the Knights at the under-16 media timeout with 15:52 remaining.
But the Badgers answered.
After an ice-cold 0-for-7 shooting mark to open the second half allowed Rutgers to claw its way back in the game, Wisconsin heated back up.
The Badgers closed out the period shooting 13-for-19 from the field, attacking the Knights vulnerable interior behind 16 points on a 7-of-8 mark from Ethan Happ and a 14-point effort from Bronson Koenig.
Since making it a 45-41 ballgame with 13:03 to go, Rutgers got blown out of the water as Wisconsin closed the contest out on a 34-16 run to seal the victory.
Head coach Eddie Jordan elected to start senior Bishop Daniels in favor of freshman Corey Sanders at point guard.
Daniels finished second in scoring for the Knights with 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while Sanders struggled off the bench with a 1-for-8 mark from the field and 0-for-4 clip from 3-point range to show for his two points and four assists in 23 minutes.
Omari Grier followed up his back-to-back 20-plus-point performances with just nine points, unable to capitalize with a scoreless second half.
After failing to escape the Midwest by managing a win at Wisconsin, Rutgers returns to action next Wednesday at the Xfinity Center in College Park against No. 4 Maryland (11-1, 1-0) for a 7 p.m. tip-off on Big Ten Network.
For updates on the Rutgers men’s basketball team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.