Three Observations from Wisconsin's Win vs. Rutgers
MADISON, Wis. -- Despite Rutgers whittling down a double-digit deficit late in the game to a two-possession contest, the Wisconsin Badgers found a way to hold on to a 79-71 victory on Sunday.
With the win this weekend, Wisconsin (17-10 overall, 10-6 Big Ten) now sits in a four-way tie for second place in the conference standings with Penn State, Iowa and Michigan State. Needless to say with four straight wins, Greg Gard's program is hitting its stride at the right time of the year with four final regular season games remaining.
AllBadgers.com breaks down a trio of takeaways from the win that improves UW's record inside the Kohl Center to 13-1 during the 2019-20 season with two home games remaining before the Big Ten Tournament.
Micah Potter's a Difference Maker
The redshirt junior big man could not play in the first matchup between these two programs due to NCAA transfer rules, but his presence was felt on Sunday with a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds in a mere 17:15 of game action.
Coming off the bench, he connected on six of eight field goal attempts, which included four of five from three-point range, and made both of his free throw tries.
"Just gives them another guy, again another weapon, too, when he shoots it, too," Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said of Potter after the game. "So you have to defend their post guys out to three-point land. He's physical. They can throw him the ball inside, too."
Another big man, Nate Reuvers, scored 17 points that included making eight of 10 free throws. Importantly, the junior forward played in 22:45 of game time action, keeping him fresh compared to the 28:18 he played in the December clash with the Scarlet Knights.
Redshirt senior guard Brevin Pritzl noted the big men have brought physicality to the team on Sunday and recently.
"We can interchange them, give each other rest but they keep that same mentality," Pritzl said. Both of them do a great job getting post ups, getting open threes, so it's really like having two guys who give each other a break, and they just keep going at the opposing team. It's something we really appreciate."
Potter reiterated that "sense of physicality" when asked what he is hoping to bring off the bench.
"Someone that plays hard, rebounds the ball well," Potter said. "Kind of like what Brevin was talking about with me and Nate, we can put, like he said, we can play together. We can help each other out, just bring a balance to the floor defensively and offensively, knocking down shots, physicality, play hard, stuff like that."
That physical nature showed on this thunderous dunk in the second half on a dime from point guard D'Mitrik Trice.
Brevin Pritzl steps up once again
Starting his fourth game of the season, Pritzl scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and pulled down four rebounds in the win. Being known as a dangerous shooter from three-point range, he made two of three from deep against Rutgers (18-10, 9-8) on Sunday.
Fun stat from Wisconsin's postgame notes: The program is currently 10-0 when Pritzl scores 10 or more points during the 2019-20 season.
The De Pere, Wis., native also played the most minutes for the Badgers against the Scarlet Knights (36:34).
In conference play, Pritzl has averaged 8.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest while shooting 37% from three-point range against Big Ten opponents. He also ranks fourth on the team in minutes played in those 16 games (28.1), trailing just Trice, Brad Davison and Kobe King.
Wisconsin Contained Rutgers' Rebounding Game and Points in the Paint Enough
One of the storylines for this clash would be how UW could rebound better against Rutgers. In that Dec. 11 contest inside the RAC, the Scarlet Knights dominated the glass by a 40-26 rebounding margin, including a 14-3 advantage in offensive rebounds.
This time around, Rutgers still won the category, but it was not as dramatic (32-30 overall, 7-5 on the offensive end). Pikiell's team only mustered six second-chance points compared to 23 during the December matchup.
"I thought we were much better on the glass today than we were two months ago or so when were out in New Jersey," head coach Greg Gard said after the game.
That being said, Rutgers scored as many points in the paint (42) as it did in Piscataway in December. Wisconsin was able to weather that storm by closing the rebounding gap against the physical opponent, but also in its shooting from three-point land and the free throw line.
After making 34.8% of its attempts from deep over two months ago in New Jersey, Wisconsin hit 11 of 22 treys (50%) on Sunday. Rutgers allowed opponents to make just 31.5% of their three-point opportunities heading into the matchup.
UW also owned the free throw category, making 20 of 26 from the charity stripe (76.9%) compared to Rutgers (who made it to the line just 10 times, converting seven).
"I thought we moved the ball pretty well. Usually the three comes from something secondary or it's a byproduct of touching the post, getting dribble penetration, and then you got to move the ball," Gard said. "You got to be unselfish with it, and I thought we did that for the most part. When we did touch the post, obviously they collapsed. They squeeze a lot of bodies into that paint, and you either got to make a play through traffic or we got to get it out. Then you got to knock them down, so I thought we took for the most part good ones.
"Then obviously to be able to get to the free throw line, too, that's a big piece of playing a team that plays so physical and jams things up. To be able to get the line 26 times was important."
- Though he did not reach double digits in the scoring category on Sunday, Trice dished out a career-high nine assists in the win. As UW noted in its postgame notes, the redshirt junior guard has accumulated 44 dimes in the last seven contests while owning a 3.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
- Wisconsin showed some fortitude when Rutgers pushed late in the game. The Scarlet Knights brought it to within a two-possession game at 73-65 with 2:19 remaining after a Myles Johnson layup. However, Trice hit a key shot with the play clock winding down on the ensuing possession. Then, Trice forced an offensive foul on Rutgers guard Geo Baker, and the defense held for another possession after a UW turnover. Reuvers then connected on two free throws to extend the lead to 77-68 with 51 seconds to play.