PISCATAWAY, NJ - JANUARY 11: Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks to take a shot as Greg Lewis #35 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights defends during the first half of a college basketball game at the Rutgers Athletic Center on January 11, 2015 in Piscataway, NJ. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Rutgers’ hot-shooting 2nd half dooms Badgers

No Frank Kaminsky, no problem for the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers basketball team on Sunday night against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights….except no one told the Scarlet Knights at the half. Wisconsin lost without its preseason All-American, as Kaminsky sat out with concussion-like symptoms. But, it was what Rutgers did and little to do with Kaminsky being out that gave the Scarlet Knights a shocking 67-62 win.

The win marked the Scarlet Knights’ first win over the Badgers and first win ever against a top 5 opponent.

It was a tail of two halves as the Badgers held Rutgers in check during the first half, but no one could contain the duo of Miles Mack and Kadeem Jack. That duo combined for 41 of Rutgers’ 67 points on the night, and they went off in the second half, scoring over 10 points each in the deciding stanza of the game.

Wisconsin did all they could in the first half, holding Rutgers to just 38.1 percent shooting. A halftime talk or whatever it was going on in the Scarlet Knights locker room made all the difference, as Rutgers came out and shot the lights out of the RAC.

With Kaminsky gone it was up to frontcourt mates Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes to pick up the slack. The duo did their part in the first half, but finished with just 30 points and 16 rebounds combined in the loss, after scoring 17 points combined in the first half.

Dekker went completely missing in the final 10 minutes of the second half, failing to record a single point in the final 10:41 and not even attempting a shot in the 6:41. Credit some to the Rutgers’ defense, but this was also a game that screamed out for a star to take it over for the Badgers and Dekker was one of those said stars.

The duo of Dekker and Hayes didn’t start off all too hot, following the rest of the team in that category. However, once the duo got going, so did the Badgers. The two combined for 17 points (Dekker 10, Hayes 7) and 12 rebounds in the first half alone, with Hayes nearly grabbing a double double in that half alone (7 points, 9 rebounds).

Wisconsin finished the first half up 35-23 thanks to the play of Hayes and Dekker for the most part. However, they weren’t the only ones chipping in when needed.

Guard Bronson Koenig stepped up with 12 points in his first career start, while sophomore forward Vitto Brown also made a significant dent in things during the first half (4 points, 1 rebound).

After both teams struggled to hit from the field early on, the Badgers went on a 12-3 run that made them double-digit leaders by the half. However, things were about to take a dramatic turn following the intermission.

Wisconsin went ice cold to start the second half and Rutgers simply couldn’t miss. After not hitting a three-point shot in the first half, Rutgers nailed five of them in the second half and it was the catalyst to coming back from an 11-point deficit at the half.

Rutgers was shooting at an 83.7 percent clip at one point in the half, and combining that with a Badgers defense that couldn’t stop what the Scarlet Knights were doing it was a recipe for the comeback.

It also didn’t help that the Badgers were awful from the free throw line, hitting just 56.2 percent from the charity stripe (9 of 16).

With the Badgers loss it means that no Big Ten team is undefeated in conference play and the Badgers are tied atop the conference standings with Maryland, Michigan and Michigan State.

Up next for Wisconsin is a visit from Nebraska on Jan. 15.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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