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No.14 Wisconsin opens Big Ten play with a 72-52 victory over Rutgers

No.14 Wisconsin made up for its sporadic offense with another solid defensive effort, as the Badgers won their Big Ten conference opener, 72-52, over Rutgers Tuesday.

MADISON – On a night where things were choppy on offense and ball security was sloppy, No.14 Wisconsin relied on its defense to earn a 72-52 victory over Rutgers in both team’s Big Ten opener.

Senior Zak Showalter delivered a season-high with 18 points to lead Wisconsin (12-2, 1-0 Big Ten), which won its Big Ten opener for the 13th time in the last 14 years.

Wisconsin missed five 3-pointers, five free throws and committing five turnovers, but the Badgers jumped all over Rutgers with defense. Wisconsin forced eight of its 10 steals in the first half, including four in the first four minutes, 20 seconds to jump out to an 8-2 lead.

Wisconsin played in front from that point forward, building a lead as big as 20 points in the early parts of the second half.

Forward Nigel Hayes (game-high 20) and Ethan Happ (10) also chipped in offensively to help the Badgers push their winning streak to eight.

Rutgers started 2 of 16 from the field with seven turnovers in first 18 possessions. Led by Mike Williams’ 18 points and Nigel Johnson’s 11, the Scarlet Knights managed to cut the lead to nine and could have inched even closer.

But after an empty possession, Showalter made two of three free throws after being fouled by Corey Sanders, Ibrahima Diallo was too strong on a shot in the paint and Showalter made a layup at the other end to make it 57-44 with 6:38 left. UW led by at least 11 the rest of the way.

The Scarlet Knight shot 31.1 percent in dropping to 0-3 against RPI top 100 teams.

Wisconsin gets an early bye in Big Ten play before traveling to No.16 Indiana (8-2) Tuesday.

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