Even with Frank Kaminsky ruled out for Sunday’s game at Rutgers, the general consensus was that No. 4 Wisconsin had enough to take care of business and remain undefeated in Big Ten play. And through 20 minutes that assumption looked to be accurate, with the Badgers taking a 35-23 lead into the half after shooting nearly 47 percent from the field and making six more field goals (15-9) than the Scarlet Knights.
During one stretch Wisconsin made five straight field goals, going on a 12-4 run to expand their lead to 12 points with 6:13 remaining in the half.
But things changes in the second half, with Rutgers seniors Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack taking over and the Badgers losing point guard Traevon Jackson to a right foot injury. Final score: Rutgers 67, Wisconsin 62 with the Badgers being the highest-ranked team the Scarlet Knights have ever beaten, surpassing Rutgers’ win over No. 6 West Virginia in 1982.
While many will point to the absence of Kaminsky and Jackson’s injury as the reasons why Rutgers won, thus meaning that this shouldn’t be considered an upset, keep in mind that Rutgers had already lost home games to Northwestern, Saint Francis (PA) and Saint Peter’s prior to Sunday. Eddie Jordan’s team did have a conference win under its belt, as they beat Penn State, but this is quite the boost for a program that truly needed it in their first season as a member of the Big Ten.
Mack, who shot 4-for-5 from three and scored 19 points in the second half, finished with 21 and Jack added 20 as he thoroughly outplayed Sam Dekker. Dekker finished the game with just four points and two rebounds, an outing the Badgers could not afford given how shorthanded they were. Nigel Hayes led the way with 15 points and ten rebounds, but as a team Wisconsin looked lost at times offensively with Jackson in the locker room being attended to.
But even with the impact of Jackson’s injury, Rutgers deserves credit for not allowing the visitors to get back into the groove they were in during the first half.
By comparison Rutgers shot 66.7% from the field in the second half, scoring 44 points in what represents the highest-scoring half the Badgers have allowed since No. 2 Duke scored 45 in the second half of their 80-70 win in Madison on December 3.
Being shorthanded certainly didn’t help Wisconsin’s cause Sunday night. But the same can be said for their inability to slow down Rutgers after keeping them in check (relatively speaking, as Rutgers shot 41 percent) for most of the first half. As a result, Eddie Jordan’s program has its first major win as a member of the Big Ten.