Corey Sanders had a game-high 23 points, but more importantly, Sanders had the five most important points in the game.
With the game tied at 53-53, Sanders calmly took a pull-up jumper from the top of the key to give Rutgers a lead with 1:43 left. After Rutgers got a stop on the ensuing possession, Sanders hit a three to give the Scarlet Knights a five-point lead. The next possession for Wisconsin Brad Davison was called for a charge, essentially ending the game, giving Rutgers its first Big Ten win of the year, 64-60.
Wisconsin’s five-game winning streak is snapped, dropping their record to 9-8 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin’s offense had been on fire the last five games, averaging nearly 80 points per game and shooting 53% from the field. A trip to New Jersey for a game against Rutgers, the Big Ten’s number one scoring defense, crashed the Badgers’ offense back down to Earth.
Wisconsin shot just 2/13 from the three-point line. Their first make from beyond the arc came with 2:03 remaining in the game, and the second one was at the buzzer when the game was decided. Additionally, Davison and Ethan Happ combined for 12 turnovers in one of the ugliest performances of the season.
Pritzl and Davison scored 13 points, Happ and Reuvers chipped in 10.
The Badgers started out 0/3 from the field and two turnovers before Brevin Pritzl, back from a head injury that caused him to miss one game, penetrated the defense and made a nice dish to Nathan Reuvers for an easy bucket. It took Wisconsin nearly four minutes to get on the scoreboard. Greg Gard’s squad turned it over five times in the first 8:16, a shocking amount of a team that averages 11 turnovers per game.
Wisconsin went 0/8 from the three-point line in the first 20 minutes, they did go 8/8 from the free-throw line to keep them in the game. Happ, who had an amazing performance last time out, totaled only six points and five turnovers in the first half.
Rutgers shot worse than the Badgers from the field but had 10 extra field goal attempts than Wisconsin, helping them take a one-point lead going into halftime, 25-24. Rutgers’ standout guard Corey Sanders scored 10 quick points for Rutgers mixing in field goals inside and outside. Deshawn Freeman chipped in seven in the first half.
Wisconsin started out the second half strong with three easy buckets inside off of nice passes after penetration. First, Davison drove down the left side of the lane and bounced it to Iverson, who was waiting at the block, for an easy lay-in. Then, Happ made a nice spin-move near the half-court line to lose his defender, and as Reuvers’s man came up to stop the junior center he dished it down to the freshman who finished with the harm, giving the Badgers a 29-25 lead. After a Rutgers three, it was then a combination of Davison and Happ, with Davison assisting Happ for an easy bucket plus the foul.
With the Badgers up 33-28, Rutgers ripped off a 14-2 run to take the lead, 42-35. Sanders had a three and two assists during the stretch. Pritzl ended the run with an and-one finish at the hoop and converted the free throw, making him the first Badger with double-digit points in the outing with 11:02 to go.
Interior passing would continue to produce points for Wisconsin’s offense. Aaron Moesch made back-to-back plays first on the passing end assisting Happ and then on the scoring end, finishing a nice pass from Pritzl. Moesch helped the Badgers get within one point, but Rutgers would continue to keep Wisconsin at least a couple of possessions away from the lead.
Rutgers was up 51-46 with less than four minutes remaining, Eugene Omoruyi stole an entry pass from Davison and heaved it ahead for a Freeman dunk, putting the Badgers down seven and it seemed like the end of the road.
Sanders had a chance to end it as drove down the lane for an easy layup but missed. Happ took the miss the length of the floor and passed it Iverson for a slam to get the deficit down to three points. After Davison’s step back three, the Badgers first three of the game, the Badgers and the Scarlet Knights were back even.
But then, it was Corey Sanders time.
Up next, the Badgers travel to Lincoln to play Nebraska on Tuesday.