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Badgers use strong 2nd half to best Rutgers

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Some may say the No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers are a second half team. That was certainly on display over the past week and again on Monday night in a 69-64 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-3, 0-2 B1G). 

Wisconsin (8-1, 2-0 B1G) went down by 10 points in the first half, but cut the lead to 31-26 at intermission and then turned it on in the second half themselves. 

After taking the lead for the first time in the game with just under two minutes gone in the second half, the Badgers never looked back. UW led by as many as 11 points and managed to keep any surge by the Scarlet Knights at bay. 

UW was able to put up 43 points in the second half, following up big second half performances in wins over NC State and Iowa last week. 

Rutgers never got closer than the five-point margin at the end of the game once the Badgers took the lead in the second half. 

After struggling for points in the first half, senior center Ethan Happ paced the Badgers in the second half and finished the game with 20 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. 

Fellow big man Nate Reuvers put up 10 points, while sophomore point guard D’Mitrik Trice had 14 points and only took (and made) two three-pointers in the win. 

Rutgers was led by Eugene Omoruyi’s 17 points, while the big scoring threat of Gio Baker was largely neutralized after scoring nine of his 15 points in the first half. 

UW continued to be perfect at home against Rutgers, improving its all-time record to 4-0 in games played at the Kohl Center in this series. 

Wisconsin struggled early on to find its shot inside on offense and to keep the Scarlet Knights from getting to the hoop on defense. 

It led to a 8-0 run midway through the first half and a Rutgers 22-15 lead with 8:02 to play in the half. 

The Badgers also went cold from the field at the same time, but managed to hold the lead at 22-15 thanks to an improved defensive effort over the next few minutes. 

Rutgers eventually increased its lead to 10 points at 27-17 with 2:57 to go in the half. But, the Badgers found some rhythm soon after and cut the lead to 31-26 when the buzzer sounded for intermission. 

The Scarlet Knights did a good job containing Ethan Happ, who had just eight points on 4-8 shooting from the field and dished out zero assists in the half. 

In fact, Wisconsin didn’t put up a single assist on any of the 12 made field goals, shot just 1 of 6 from deep and lost the rebounding battle 13-11 to the visitors. 

However, UW’s ability to get hot late in the first half carried over in a major way in the second half. The Badgers came out hot and quickly ate in to the lead with a 6-2 run to start the half and led for the first time all game at 35-33 on a Nate Reuvers three with 18:05 to play.

Khalil Iverson had four of those points to start the second half off right for the hosts. 

It was all part of a 13-4 run over the first five minutes of the half and put the Badgers in control of the game at 39-35. 

Wisconsin would not secede the lead from there, extending it to a nine-point lead at 52-43 with 9:20 to play in the game on a Trice jumper from just inside the three-point line.  

Rutgers wasn’t going to go away easily though, and they cut the lead right back to a two-possession game at 52-46 with 8:02 left in the contest. 

But, the Scarlet Knights could never get it to a one-possession game and the Badgers had an answer right back for any run or attempted run by the visitors. 

After a little back-and-forth basketball for most of the late part of this game, Trice hit just his second attempt from beyond the arc in the game and gave the Badgers a comfortable eight-point lead at 57-65 with just over 56 seconds left to play. 

Junior guard Brevin Pritzl would come off the bench to play a key role in the final minute. He hit the final four points of the game from the free throw line to salt the game away for the hosts. 

Wisconsin will travel to in-state rival Marquette on Saturday. It will be the first matchup at the new Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee and tipoff is scheduled for 4pm CT on Fox. 

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Badgers Basketball

Late-game slump does in Badgers basketball against MSU

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Unfortunately for the Wisconsin Badgers, the worst of times came down the stretch in a 67-59 loss to No.11 Michigan State at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers led by as many as 7 points in the first half, but went over 5 minutes without scoring single point to end the second half and the Spartans were able to take full advantage.

Wisconsin trailed 57-56 with 5:20 to play after a made free throw from Brad Davison.

MSU went on an 8-0 run during that time and opened up a commanding 9-point lead with 15 seconds to play. Davison stopped the bleeding a bit with a three-pointer to make the score 65-59, but with 10 seconds to go the game was well over already.

Ethan Happ went over the 2,000-point mark in the loss, scoring a team-best 20 points on 10-20 shooting from the field. He also added 12 rebounds for another double double on the year and his career record 48th.

Michigan State was led by guard Cassius Winston with 23 points, while Kenny Goins and Nick Ward added 12 points a piece for the victors.

Turning Point: That Second-half slump

It’s funny how things can change in the game of basketball. I could’ve easily been writing about McQuaid’s flagrant foul and the ensuing 9-2 run that gave Wisconsin a 7-point lead in the first half.

Michigan State played catchup for a big amount of time from that point forward.

But, none of that turned the game to the result that actually happened. Instead, it was the most frustrating thing to watch — a team with plenty of chances just squandering them left and right.

That’s what happened over the course of the final 5:20 of the game. It was a combination of going ice cold from the field and playing some truly bad defense that saw this game flip on its head.

Stats That Mattered Most:

40-28: Michigan State outrebounded Wisconsin 40-28 on Tuesday night. You can’t win games when you go cold from the field and can’t grab a rebound on the other end either. When you are shooting 1 percent different than your opponent this type of stat really matters.

14-7: That rebounding advantage was also 10-6 on offensive rebounds and MSU got a 7-point advantage in second chance points on the game. Again, in an 8-point loss this is a big deal.

2-10: Wisconsin was 2 of 10 from beyond the arc in the second half of this game after shooting 4 of 10 in the first half. Simply put, the Badgers couldn’t find quality shots from beyond the arc and they also put up some really bad looks from deep thanks to MSU’s suffocating defense.

Bottom Line:

This was a must-have game for the Badgers if they wanted a real chance to compete for a Big Ten regular season title. So, kiss that opportunity good bye.

Wisconsin going through major shooting slumps is nothing new, but this was the worst example of what happens when that is combined with horrible transition defense.

This loss also sets up an interesting question for this team heading down the final stretch of the regular season. Will this in-game slump situation fix itself or will it sink this team’s postseason hopes?

If the final 5 minutes of this game were any indication, the Badgers are in some deep trouble come the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Up Next:

Wisconsin will take on Illinois at home on Monday, Feb. 18 at 7pm CT on FS1.

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Badgers Basketball

Matthews powers Michigan past Badgers

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No. 19 Wisconsin came in red-hot, while the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines were limping through the middle of the Big Ten slate. All of that stopped as Charles Matthews poured in 18 points and led his Wolverines to a 62-51 victory over the Badgers.

It was a big of revenge served ice cold late in the contest, as UW made just one basket in the final 4:16 of the game and it allowed the Wolverines to slowly take control of the game.

Michigan used an 8-0 run over the final 90 seconds of the game to give them full control of the game.

Matthews wasn’t the only threat that helped the Wolverines in the win. Jon Teske had 17 points and 12 rebounds going up against Ethan Happ. Michigan also got 10 points from Jordan Poole in the winning effort.

Happ led the Badgers with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but he had just 4 points in the second half as Teske really shut him off from being able to dominate down low.

No other Badger reached double figures in the loss.

Turning Point: The Final 4:16

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching victory slip right through your fingers and you can’t seem to hit the broad side of the barn in the process.

Happ’s layup with 4:16 left in the game pulled the Badgers within one point at 51-50 and the back-and-forth nature of the game seemed to continue. But, the Badgers failed to score again until Brad Davison got a layup to make the game 59-52 with just 7 seconds left to play.

By then, Michigan had blown the game wide open and UW’s hopes for a season sweep of the Wolverines had gone by the wayside.

During that scoreless stretch, the Badgers were 0-5 from the field, turned the ball over once and just never got the offense flowing.

Credit a lot of the trouble to Michigan’s defense though, because they smothered UW most of the day.

Stats That Mattered Most:

5: Wisconsin managed just five assists for the entire game compared to 11 for Michigan. That indicates a lot of one-on-one basketball and that is not how the Badgers win basketball games.

19: Michigan and Wisconsin tied on the day with 30 rebounds a piece, but the hosts outrebounded the Badgers 19-14 in the second half. Wisconsin only had 2 second chance points in the half and just 3 offensive rebounds. You can’t get cold and not get rebounds and expect to win.

2: That is the number of free throw attempts for the Badgers in the entire game. Considering they played through Happ a lot early on, this number is surprising and not helpful towards winning ball games either. On the flip side, Michigan had just 9 free throw attempts, but went 7-9 on those limited attempts.

Bottom Line:

We all knew that the big run by the Badgers was going to eventually end. How this game ended was a gut-punch though, as UW showed it could go toe-to-toe with Michigan on the road only to go ice cold from the field.

It’s hard not to feel like this was an opportunity lost. UW came in just one game out of the top of the Big Ten, but this loss and an impending date with Michigan State could mean a quick end to the hopes for a regular season title.

Going forward, the Badgers have to put the bad ending behind them and show it was a blip instead of a pattern.

Wisconsin will host Michigan State on Tuesday at 6pm on ESPN2.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers Basketball Preview: 5 things to know vs. Maryland (2nd edition)

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It’s that time of the Big Ten season already for the Wisconsin Badgers..and by that we mean it’s time for the return matchups to begin.

The first of which will be a huge battle between two top 25 programs, with No. 21 Maryland coming to the Kohl Center to take on No. 24 Wisconsin.

Last time these two teams met, the Badgers dug a deep hole and nearly climbed all the way out of it in a 64-60 loss in College Park, Md.

Can home court advantage come in to play again and who will assert themselves smack dab in the middle of the Big Ten title race?

We’ve got 5 things to know for this matchup, so let’s dig in to that.

5: Maryland is about to start a 5-game stretch against teams in the Top 30 of the NET rankings

Friday night starts the gut-check time for both the Wisconsin Badgers and Maryland Terrapins, but more so for the Terps who will face five straight games against teams in the top 30 of the NET rankings.

Following tonight’s contest it will be a trip to Nebraska, home to Purdue, at Michigan and at Iowa. That’s a brutal stretch outside of a Nebraska team that seems to be in trouble without their star senior Isaac Copeland.

As for Wisconsin, things are easy for them either. In fact, three of the next four games are against ranked opponents in Maryland, Michigan and Michigan State. The only game not against a ranked opponent isn’t easy either as UW travels to Minnesota.

It’s safe to say, getting off on the right foot is going to be very important both teams making a positive move up the Big Ten standings.

4: Maryland leads the series with 4 wins since joining the Big Ten

While this is a fresh series in the grand scheme of the Big Ten’s history, arguably no series has been more heated since Maryland joined the conference than the one with the Badgers.

That’s because Maryland has four wins over Wisconsin since joining the B1G, but they also are just 4-3 overall in the seven games as a conference member.

A win by Wisconsin would mean a 4-4 overall mark between the two teams and dare I say they are indeed basketball rivals of the Badgers? Given how intense most of these games have been, this isn’t a far stretch.

In the seven games in conference play, the average win is by 6.7 points per game no matter the winner. So, expect a hard-fought and close battle.

3: Bruno Fernando has had 3 fouls in just 5 games this season

If you were paying attention to the last game between Wisconsin and Maryland, then you know Bruno Fernando was a big player in that game. Not only was he a big scoring threat, but his foul trouble in the second half allowed the Badgers to get back in to the game.

It was no coincidence that UW’s big comeback happened with Fernando on the bench with 4 fouls.

Fernando is no stranger to foul trouble and that’s why I point out the fact that he’s recorded 3 fouls just five times in 22 games to date. He’s fouled out just once, but has recorded more than 3 fouls in eight games.

Given the battle that is likely to happen down low between Fernando and Happ once again in this matchup, keeping Fernando on the floor and out of foul trouble is going to be huge.

2: Ethan Happ has just 2 double doubles in the last 5 games

It may sound crazy to say “just” 2 double doubles for a player in any given time, but earlier this year Happ was a near-lock for a double double. In fact, he had double doubles in 9 of the first 12 games including one triple double to start the season.

His work has slowed as of late and it really started with a rough game the last time out against Maryland. Happ finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds, which isn’t terrible my most standards, but not by Happ’s.

Let’s not forget he was just 5-10 from the field and has 4 personal fouls.

That can’t happen against the Terps top line in this matchup and expect the Badgers to win.

Oh, and did we mention that sophomore big man Nate Reuvers happens to love playing against the Terps? He set a then career-high with 18 points in that game, but has since topped it (all within the same five game stretch).

1: Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting

Yes, this stat will continue to be important, as the Badgers are shooting 39.9 percent as a team from beyond the arc. It’s equally important to this matchup, because the last time Wisconsin failed miserably from the 3-point line, missing the first 10 of those shots.

Eventually the Badgers got hot and finished the game 11-30 from beyond the arc. But, they can’t get off to a slow start on the perimeter in this one and expect to lean exclusively on Happ and Reuvers in the post.

Maryland is too good on the inside to not force them to defend the perimeter and work hard there too. Reuvers recent ability to hit from deep on a consistent basis should also be a huge help in spreading out the Terps.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers pass road test at Nebraska

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In a game of big runs, it was the No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers who had the final big one as they took down the Nebraska Cornhuskers 62-51 in Lincoln.

After watching a 13-point first half lead go to single digits and then the lead completely slip away early in the second half, Wisconsin woke up just in time to make an 8-0 run to go up 45-40 around the midway mark of the second half and that was all she wrote in this one.

The win is Wisconsin’s fourth straight, while Nebraska has lost four straight. Wisconsin also improves to 3-2 all-time at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Brad Davison was a large part of steadying the ship in the second half, as he scored 10 of his team-high 13 points in the second frame of the game.

Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers joined Davison in double figures with 10 points each.

The Badgers opened up what was a close game with a 14-0 run over the course of just about five minutes. UW was up 21-8 on a Khalil Iverson layup with 9:00 left in the half.

Nebraska answered with a 13-7 run the rest of the way to make it a single digit 28-21 lead at halftime.

Despite Brevin Pritzl hitting the final shot of the half, it was the Huskers who came out firing after halftime. The used a 9-2 run and then a 9-0 run early in the second half to take a 35-32 lead.

From there, the two teams traded big shots and quick swings in the scoreline until an 8-0 run and then a 7-0 run shortly after sealed the deal for the visitors.

Turning Point: Wisconsin’s 8-0 2nd half run

Sometimes it takes one punch, other times it takes wearing an opponent down and hitting him with a final flurry. That’s what happened for the Badgers, who squandered a 14-0 run in the first half and took two 9-point runs by the Huskers in the second half.

It all added up to a team on the brink of disaster. However, the Badgers steadied themselves and came up with an 8-0 run of their own in the middle of the second half.

What was a back-and-forth affair became a 5-point lead for Wisconsin once again.

All of that work by the Huskers to not only get back in the game, but actually take a lead and it was quickly erased once again. That was the Badgers rope-a-dope if you will, wearing the Huskers out and landing a final flurry that put them over the edge.

The Huskers simply couldn’t find the answer to get right back in the game and that was all she wrote for the hosts.

Stats That Mattered Most:

.333: We’ve already talked about the Huskers struggles on offense, but shooting just 3 of 9 on layup opportunities in the first half is a perfect illustration of what was going on.

7: Happ only had 10 points, so how did the Badgers win? By having seven different players score in the game and of those seven players, six of them had eight or more points. While it wasn’t always great, getting that mix of offense was the formula for success in this game and could be the experience needed during some difficult upcoming matchups.

4: The Badgers defense has been a major story during this winning streak, that was the case on Tuesday night as UW allowed just 4 of 20 shooting from beyond the arc. Combine that number with nine makes on the other end of the court and you have a very difficult formula for teams to overcome.

The Bottom Line:

Wisconsin came in hot, looking like a team that has found its groove and the Huskers were reeling from the loss of star Isaac Copeland. Adding to Nebraska’s misery in a place in which the Badgers haven’t always had success was a nice touch considering the upcoming schedule.

It may be a cliché to say any road win is a good win, but this certainly holds true in a league in which anyone seems like they can win on any given night (sorry Penn State).

Nebraska took Wisconsin’s big punch, punched back and the Badgers gave the final knockout punch. That’s a mark of teams with confidence and poise.

Watching this game and seeing a team effort on offense, great defensive production for the vast majority of 40 minutes and making quick adjustments to bad situations was massive.

Getting a four-game win streak going heading in to a stretch of Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State in the next four games is huge for confidence.

We’ll see if this type of win translates to teams in the upper division with the Badgers.

Up next is a Friday night contest at the Kohl Center with No. 21 Maryland. Tip is scheduled for 8pm CT on FS1.

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