Game 21 Preview & Prediction: Wisconsin at Rutgers

After a dominating second half Tuesday against Penn State, the 15th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers return to action Saturday morning as they take on Rutgers at Madison Square Garden.

Wisconsin outscored the Nittany Lions 46-22 in the second half on Tuesday as the Badgers won 82-55 at the Kohl Center. The win marked the fourth straight for the Badgers, who have won 11 of their past 12 contests. Wisconsin is currently 17-3 overall, and have a share of the Big Ten Conference lead with Maryland at 6-1.

Rutgers enters Saturdays 11a.m. tip with a 12-9 record, including 1-7 in conference play. The Scarlet Knights have dropped eight of their past nine contests; their lone win coming on January 21st as they defeated Nebraska 65-64 at Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Saturdays contest marks the second meeting between Rutgers and Wisconsin this season; the first meeting came on December 27th as the Badgers defeated the Scarlet Knights 72-52 at the Kohl Center. The Badgers were led that night by 20 points from Nigel Hayes and 18 points from Zak Showalter. Rutgers was led by junior guard Mike Williams, who finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds.

The Scarlet Knights currently rank fourth in the nation in rebounds per game (42.1) and have shown a dramatic change on the defensive side of the ball as they rank 23rd in defensive field goal percentage allowed (39.3).

Sophomore guard Corey Sanders leads the Knights in points (12.5) and assists (3.5).  While junior forward Deshawn Freeman leads the team with 8.5 rebounds per game, to go along with 11.4ppg. Junior guard Nigel Johnson also posts 11.4ppg.

In their December 27th meeting, the Badgers led 47-26 with 14:17 remaining, but the Knights were able to claw their way back into the game with an 18-6 run to close the gap to nine with 8:22 remaining. That was the closest Rutgers would get for the remainder of the game, as the Badgers extended their lead to a 20-point victory.

So what should Badgers fans watch for in this meeting?

  1. Rebounding Battle: As mentioned before, Rutgers is one of the top rebounding teams in the country and the Scarlet Knights are extremely aggressive on the offensive glass. Luckily, this is also a strength of the Badgers, Wisconsin out-rebounded the Knights 44-35 in their first meeting.
  2. Quick Start: Wisconsin has been guilty this season of allowing inferior teams to hang around in the first half. The Badgers need to avoid giving the Scarlet Knights life at halftime to avoid the upset at Madison Square Garden.
  3. Bronson: The senior guard is on a hot streak right now. Koenig knocked down clutch triple after clutch triple against Michigan and Minnesota, which carried over to a 20-point performance Tuesday against Penn State. Bronson has made 21 of his 35 attempts from behind the arc over his past six games.

Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 78 Rutgers 63 (Thorson is 18-2 on the season)

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