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Rutgers falls to Wisconsin: Instant Analysis

–Issa Thiam (Photo: Mary Langenfeld, USA TODAY Sports)

Rutgers fell short of an upset against a ranked conference opponent for the second consecutive game Monday night. The Scarlet Knights fell to No. 12 Wisconsin, 69-64, at the Kohl Center. Rutgers led for much of the first half, pushing the lead to as much as 10, but could not keep the Badgers in check much longer. Wisconsin opened the second half on an 13-4 run to retake the lead for good. The Badgers led by as much as 11, the Scarlet Knights cut that lead to 5 points with a minute to play, but Wisconsin held on.

Game Ball: Shaq Carter
The JuCo transfer big man had a coming-out party of sorts in Madison. The junior college transfer’s role is expected to grow against Big Ten teams with more athletic bigs and bigger benches, and Carter responded well to his first road challenge. He defended Happ well, forcing him into tough shots, and got off to a quick start offensively. Carter finished with 9 points on 4-for-5 shooting after hitting his first four attempts from the floor. While he did not lead Rutgers in scoring — three Scarlet Knights (Geo Baker, Peter Kiss, Eugene Omoruyi) were in double-figures — he provided a spark off the bench and played a crucial role in Rutgers’ best stretch of the game.

Box Score Leaders:
High Scorer: Eugene Omoruyi — 17 points
High Rebounder: Eugene Omoruyi — 6 rebounds
Assist Leader: Peter Kiss — 4 assists
Most Steals: Eugene Omoruyi, Issa Thiam, Peter Kiss (tied) — 1 steal
Most Blocks: Shaquille Doorson — 2 blocks

Observations:
—– Slow second half starts continue to plague the Scarlet Knights against quality opposition. It buried Rutgers against Michigan State after an even first half and the same repeated in Madison on Monday. The aforementioned 13-4 run out of the gate in the second half put the Scarlet Knights in a deficit against a top-15 team and the offense struggled to dig them out. The first four minutes of the second half is a vital period and at this point in the season, it is Rutgers’ downfall.

—– The Scarlet Knights focused on holding Ethan Happ in check and they did that well in the first half. Steve Pikiell used his bench smartly, constantly rotating bigs to keeping a fresh body on Happ to deny him the ball in the paint and prevent him from getting easy buckets. He often had to pick up the ball at the top of the key to get the ball and back his way into the paint, far from ideal for his style of game. The second half was a different story as the Badger big eventually wore Rutgers down and took advantage. Happ scored 12 points in the second half as he spearheaded the 13-4 run out of the half which gave Wisconsin the lead for good. When the Scarlet Knights cut into the Badgers’ lead and tried to make it a game late, Happ scored two straight buckets to keep the visitors at bay.

—– Rutgers offense stalled in the second half. After a season-best 14-for-26 clip (54 percent) in the first half, the Scarlet Knights went 11-for-27 (40 percent) in the final 20 minutes. The visitors went away from what they were successful at in the first half — getting the ball inside, either to the bigs or through drives into the paint — and settled for too many outside shots. The Badgers adjusted by getting two bigs on the floor and packing the paint for stretches and Rutgers could not answer from the perimeter (2-for-7 from three in the second half).

—— Credit Rutgers for fighting until the final buzzer. Despite falling by as much as 11 with five minutes to play, the Scarlet Knights did not quit. They cut the lead down to five points in the final minute

Rutgers will return to action…
Saturday afternoon in the Bronx for a 2:30 p.m. tip-off against Fordham at Rose Hill Gymnasium.

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