Badgers Must Rally Around Jackson

Wisconsin's first Big Ten loss at Rutgers Sunday was a painful one, as it drops the Badgers into a three-way tie for first place in the conference and puts starting point guard Traevon Jackson on the shelf with a broken foot, forcing role players to step up into key roles.

MADISON - A major injury to one of Bo Ryan’s key starters ended one Wisconsin title run years ago. The Badgers are hoping injury doesn’t repeat itself.

Senior guard Traevon Jackson fractured his right foot and is set to have surgery Thursday, putting him on the shelf for the bulk of Wisconsin’s Big Ten conference season.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the process, learn from this and trust in Christ,” Jackson said in a statement. “I know my teammates will come together and be stronger because of this. I’m looking forward to coming back mentally stronger than ever and more prepared to win championships and finish off the year and the seniors’ careers the right way.”

The injury occurred in the second half of Wisconsin’s 67-62 loss to Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J., when Jackson landed awkwardly contesting a 3-point shot with 12 minutes, 18 seconds remaining. Jackson’s initial rehab process will begin in 2-3 weeks.

It’s the second time in eight years a highly-ranked Wisconsin team has suffered a devastating injury to one of its key starters. In the 2006-07 season, junior center Brian Butch dislocated his elbow in the first half when No.1 Wisconsin played No.2 Ohio State in Columbus in March. UW lost that game, 49-48, and Butch’s absence prevented UW from winning the Big Ten regular season title, tournament title or getting out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Thankfully, in theory, Jackson will only be sidelined approximately six weeks, making him available at the end of February for UW’s championship runs. No target date was given in the UW release. For comparison, Wisconsin football junior fullback Derek Watt missed five games and six weeks after suffering a broken foot in the season opener.

While not the biggest scorer on the team, Jackson’s loss is tangible. Having started 84 consecutive games, Jackson was averaging 9.4 points per game, but leads the Badgers with 49 assists and is second on the team with an 85.4 percent free throw percentage.

Wisconsin (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) – which dropped three spots to No.7 in the AP poll – will resume practice today and start to redefine some roles.

Sophomore guard Bronson Koenig made his first career start Sunday with senior center Frank Kaminsky (concussion) out and responded well, finishing with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in a season-high 31 minutes.

Koenig, who is averaging 4.9 points and 2.1 assists in 20.5 minutes per game, has a sparking 36 assists to only eight turnovers, but likely won’t be asked to do it alone.

Senior guard Josh Gasser has experience with the point guard position and was in line to be the team’s starting point guard in 2012-13 before a torn ACL in the preseason knocked him out for the year. Ironically, that opened the door for Jackson’s starting streak.

Reserve guard Zak Showalter, who had played a combined four minutes in the first three league games (and none against Purdue), played seven minutes against Rutgers. He contributed two points and four rebounds and will likely have his biggest role of his young career after redshirting last season.

UW will need more from fifth-year senior, and top reserve, Duje Dukan, forward Vitto Brown (who only played three minutes in the second half Sunday and is still appears to be adjusting to the speed of the game) and Sam Dekker, who vanished down the stretch in the second half. Wisconsin counted on Jackson to hit the big shots late in games, and Dekker has yet to show that type of grit in crunch time.

Wisconsin has four games left this month: hosting Nebraska (10-6, 2-2) Thursday, hosting Iowa Jan. 20, traveling to Michigan Jan.24 and traveling to Iowa City Jan.31. UW has seven games next month: Indiana (Feb. 3), Northwestern (Feb. 7), at Nebraska (Feb. 10), Illinois (Feb. 15), at Penn State (Feb. 18), Minnesota (Feb. 21) and at Maryland (Feb. 24).

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