Saturday’s 22-point loss felt like a culmination of the issues that have plagued the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team during their now four-game losing streak.
UW turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, shot 32.8 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from three-point land — allowing a Rutgers University team that entered the contest averaging the 28th fewest points per game in the country to score 78. UW was frequently forced out of their offensive sets, only assisting on seven of their 19 makes compared to Rutgers’ 18 assists on 30 field goals.
The Badgers never led.
While the blowout nature of the defeat may have been a shock, the Scarlet Knights were riding a two-game winning streak coming into Saturday and boast one of the top defenses in the country. Their win streak was largely sparked by the return of Jeremiah Williams, a junior transfer from Iowa State University who had been recovering from a torn Achilles suffered in the fall of 2022.
Williams led Rutgers with 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds with just one turnover. The Scarlet Knights also received 13 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks from Clifford Omoruyi, and got a spark off the bench from Noah Fernandes (17 points, 5-for-5 3Pt).
Shooting guard Connor Essegian paced the Badgers in scoring with 15 points, taking on an expanded role due to backup point guard Blackwell sitting with a hip injury and guard Max Klesmit getting into foul trouble early in the first half. Guard AJ Storr was right behind Essegian — tallying 14 points. But Storr was limited to merely one point in the second half and shot 5-for-16 from the field and 0-for-5 from deep on the day.
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Outside of Storr, the Badgers starting five combined to shoot 7-for-27 (25.9%) on field goals and, including Storr, went 1-for-12 from 3-point range.
UW was playing from behind almost immediately, bleeding seven points in the first 65 seconds defensively and turning the ball over on each of their first four offensive possessions. While Storr accounted for six of UW’s first nine points and got the team to within two at the 13:35 mark, the Badgers wouldn’t come within one possession for the remainder of the game.
UW tied their season average in turnovers per game in less than one half, as they struggled time and time again with the Scarlet Knights’ press defense. Once Klesmit picked up his second foul, Rutgers was able to exploit the Badgers lack of ball-handling options, a weakness resulting from the absences of Blackwell and backup point guard Kamari McGee.
Down 37–28 at halftime, UW’s offensive struggles carried over to the final period. They failed to record a single field goal until the 14:06 mark, allowing Rutgers to extend the lead to double-digits, where the advantage would remain for the rest of the game.
Though there were stretches where UW looked to be picking up some steam, their efforts were immediately neutralized on the defensive end, as the Scarlet Knights got red-hot and knocked down seven of their 10 attempts from beyond the arc.