Previewing the Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Jake Kocorowski

A two-game homestand comes to a close for the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday afternoon when it hosts the Rutgers Scarlet Knights inside the Kohl Center. 

Rutgers (18-9 overall, 9-7 Big Ten) dominates at home, winning of 17 of 18 games inside its Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). On the road, however, it has only recorded one victory in nine contests (1-7 in away games, 0-2 at a neutral site).

Wisconsin (16-10, 9-6) holds a 7-3 all-time series lead and has won all four previous meetings in Madison.

AllBadgers.com presents Rutgers' team rankings, key stats and players to watch, along with some insight from Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft and guard Brad Davison on their next opponent.

Team Rankings, Stats

  • AP Ranking: N/A
  • KenPom Ranking (as of Feb. 22): No. 31 (No. 78 adjusted offensive efficiency, No. 9 adjusted defensive efficiency)
  • NCAA NET Ranking (as of Feb. 22): No. 35
Statistics
Rutgers
Rutgers' Opponents

Points Per Game

69.8

61.6

Field Goal Percentage

44.4

38.1

Three-Point Percentage

30.5

31.4

Free Throw Percentage

65.1

70.7

Rebounds Per Game

40.4

33.9

Assists Per Game

12.8

11.9

Turnovers Per Game

12.4

13.2

Steals Per Game

6.5

5.7

Blocks Per Game

4.7

3.7

Rutgers leads the Big Ten in scoring defense. It also ranks second in field goal percentage defense and third in offensive rebounds (12.1).

However, the Scarlet Knights rank last in three-point field goal percentage and also sit 13th out of 14 teams in free throw percentage.

Last Time

Inside the RAC, Wisconsin let a one-point halftime lead slip in the final 20 minutes as it fell a 72-65 decision to Rutgers on Dec. 11.

The big story came on the glass and in the paint. The Scarlet Knights held a 40-26 advantage in rebounds, including owning the offensive boards by a 14-3 margin. That helped lead to 23 second-chance points.

Rutgers also dominated in the paint with 42 points -- 26 of those coming in the second half. Wisconsin allowed Steve Pikiell's team to shoot 55.2% in those final 20 minutes (16 of 29).

Geo Baker scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half and also dished out a team-high four assists on the evening. 

It should be worth noting that Wisconsin was without redshirt junior forward Micah Potter for this contest, who likely would have brought a more significant rebounding presence to the RAC; however, the Badgers will also be without its leading scorer from that December loss in guard Kobe King (18 points on 7-of-12 shooting), who has since left the UW men's basketball program.

Since Last Time 

After the home win against the Badgers, the Scarlet Knights have gone 11-6.

More recently, Rutgers has lost four of its last six games going back to Feb. 1. On Wednesday, it dropped its first home game of the season in a 60-52 loss to Michigan. Pikiell's team coughed up a three-point halftime lead and shot a chilly 23.5% in the second half, including missing all 10 attempts from three-point range in those final 20 minutes.

From Krabbenhoft's perspective, he has not seen Rutgers change since the first time the two programs faced off.

"Still tough, hard-nosed, hang their hat on the defensive end of the floor," Krabbenhoft said. "Very versatile offensive lineup that can hurt you in a lot of ways. They're good in transition, even though the numbers may not say it, because they got a lineup out there at all times that can all bring it, all attack, all can shoot so they can hurt you in a lot of ways. But I think you can tell -- I don't know, I'm not in the locker room, in the huddle -- but by watching them a lot -- they certainly take a lot of pride in the defensive end of the floor. That's where they're going to try to come out here and make it a fistfight."

Players to Watch

Three Scarlet Knights average double figures in scoring heading into Sunday's conference clash, and four other players bring in at least seven points per contest as well.

Shooting 44.8% from the floor, guard/forward Ron Harper, Jr. leads the team in scoring (11.9 points per game) and ranks second on the team in rebounds (5.6). Wisconsin contained him to just six points on 2-of-8 shooting and seven rebounds during the December contest.

Baker averages 10.5 points per contest on 38.9% shooting from the floor. He leads the team in assists (3.46 per game), though he has made just 27.9% of his three-point attempts.

"Geo Baker is really good," Krabbenhoft said. "He can get his shot off whenever he wants. He's long, athletic, he's bouncy, he can do a little bit of everything. It's going to take a collective effort on him and got to do a good job of contesting everything because it's not like you're going to take away much from him. You just got to contest it and make it difficult and hopefully make him work on the other end a little bit. We got to do a better job of establishing that early, setting the tone and making sure that he knows it's gonna be difficult because if he gets confidence going, he's a load. He's as good as anybody once he gets it rolling, so don't let him get rolling."

Guards Jacob Young and Caleb McConnell contribute 8.1 and 7.3 points per game, respectively, with the latter making 41.3% of his field goal attempts.

"They're very athletic, very aggressive," Davison said about the Rutgers backcourt. "I think they play a very fast pace. I think first possession last (game) at Rutgers, we let Geo get hard to his right hand. That's kind of his scouting report. I think he got confidence right away, and then once you get confidence, then you can do a lot more things on the basketball court.

"They're very deep. I think they have four or five or six guards that kind of all play a little different style so you kind of get a different mix depending on who you're guarding. They're a very well-coached team, defensive-minded team. They do things the right away, so it'll be a fun one."

In the frontcourt, Myles Johnson finished second on the team in scoring against Wisconsin in December (12 points on 5-of-5 shooting). The 6'11 sophomore center also reeled in seven rebounds (three on the offensive glass). Starting 25 of 27 games this season, he averages eight points and a team-leading 7.9 boards per contest.

Graduate forward Akwasi Yeboah (10.1 points, 4.8 rebounds in 27 games) scored nine points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds against the Badgers during the first meeting between these programs.

Editor's note: Correctly updating the number of Rutgers rebounds in the Dec. 11 meeting to 40 overall.

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