MADISON — Wisconsin got 20 points from senior Nigel Hayes to take care of Rutgers 72-52 in the Big Ten opener for both teams Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.
Player of the game: Zak Showalter
The senior guard brought it on both ends of the court on Tuesday, scoring 18 points and also helping to hold Rutgers to a season-low 30.0 percent shooting from the field. His point total was his best of the season, and his defensive energy — drawing a charge and racking up four steals — helped Wisconsin through a sloppy game from both sides early.
“I think it just shows how good we are as a whole,” Hayes said of Showalter’s performance. “Not just looking at it, ‘Oh, they have Nigel or they have Ethan or they have Bronson.’”
The good: Nigel Hayes
Hayes had his way much of the night, getting inside the Rutgers defense and making them pay at the free throw line. The senior was 5 of 9 from the field, but got half his points from the stripe, going 10 of 10, and hitting the 20-point mark for a third time in his last six games.
“In order to get to the free throw line 10 times, you have to absorb a lot of contact and attack the rim,” coach Greg Gard said. “Which is something I’ve seen the last four week or six weeks (from him) and how much more efficient offensively his game has become. A lot of that has been the proximity he’s played from the rim.”
The not so good: Defensive rebounding
When a team misses as many shots — 43 — as Rutgers did, there are bound to be more opportunities for second-chance points. But Wisconsin played a big factor in allowing the Scarlet Knights to grab so many offensive rebounds. In total, they had 18, which were the most Wisconsin had given up in a game this season.
Gard said afterwards that they were expecting Rutgers to crash the glass, with it being something they’ve shown much of the year.
“There were a lot of balls bouncing because of the type of shots they take,” Gard said of Rutgers. “They’re coming off at all angles and all speeds off the rim. That’s part of their DNA. They shoot it and go get it. That’s how they’ve tried to build themselves.”
Stats of the game: 21 of 28
That was Wisconsin’s numbers from the free throw line on Tuesday. It’s the second-most attempts they’ve had this year, and coming into the game the Badgers were shooting just 68.1 percent as a team. And while hitting at a 75 percent clip, like they did against Rutgers, isn’t the high-water mark, it’s a great step towards getting there.
Quote of the game:
“Frickin excited. Now when I go home and see my mom, she’ll greet me with open arms and love instead of scorn and disgust because I made my free throws. That’s wonderful.”
Hayes’ joking response to him making all 10 of his free throws. Coming into the game, he was shooting 60.8 percent from the line.
Video of the game:
Odds and ends:
— Former Badgers Trevon Hughes and Greg Stiemsma were among several alumni at the game.
— Wisconsin freshman D’Mitrik Trice made his Big Ten debut, scoring 4 points and grabbing 4 rebounds.
— Rutgers fourth-leading scorer Corey Sanders left the game late in the second half with an apparent ankle injury. He was 1 of 11 from the field before the injury.
— With the students on winter break, there were quite a few empty seats in the student section, but the Kohl Center was surprisingly full for an early tip-off against a Rutgers team expected to finish towards the bottom of the Big Ten.
— Hayes and junior Jordan Hill continue to stand a step back from the rest of the team during the national anthem as their form of protest towards the treatment of African Americans in the United States.
Wisconsin (12-2, 1-0) is off until Jan. 3, when they travel to take on No. 16 Indiana in Bloomington.