Wisconsin Basketball: Badgers open up Big Ten play with 72-52 win over Rutgers

The Wisconsin Badgers added another win to their current streak, starting off conference play 1-0 with a win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

After winning just five games all season last year, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights entered Tuesday night’s matchup with the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers with the same record at 11-2. Despite a much weaker schedule than the Badgers, head coach Steve Pikiell has his team confident and winning entering Big Ten play.

That came to end in the Kohl Center, at least for the time being.

Nigel Hayes scored a game-high 20 points, connecting on 10-10 from the free throw line and grabbing six rebounds to help the Badgers knock off the Scarlet Knights 72-52 in the league opener. Zak Showalter (18) and Ethan Happ (10) were the only other Badgers players to score in double figures.

A stingy Wisconsin defense helped the team jump out to a quick lead with Rutgers failing to score their first basket until almost four minutes in, with their second basket not coming until the 10 minute mark. The Badgers were able to hold Rutgers to just 30 percent shooting on the day and forced 15 turnovers.

“Defensively, any time you can hold a team… to 31 percent from the floor, that’s usually pretty effective,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said.

Things got a bit tight in the second half after the Badgers had opened up a 15-point lead at halftime and then some to start the second half. The Scarlet Knights, who shot 39 percent from behind the arc, got hot from downtown- cutting the deficit down to nine points and forcing the Badgers to take a timeout. From there, the Badgers went on a 14-2 run to ice the game and improve their record to 12-2 overall and now 1-0 in the Big Ten.

Mike Williams scored 18 points to lead Rutgers.

Wisconsin will have their hands full on the upcoming Big Ten slate when they travel to No. 16 Indiana next Tuesday at Assembly Hall, followed by a trip to West Lafayette to take on No. 15 Purdue.

We will learn a lot about the big dogs of the conference over the next week or so, buckle up!

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