Saturday, January 2, 2016

Showalter shows off in Wisconsin's first conference win

                                  Photo Credit: Geno Green

All season long, the Wisconsin Badgers (9-6 overall, 1-1 Big Ten)  have been in need of another scoring option on offense outside of Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes.

Saturday's 79-57 win against Rutgers (6-9 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) at the Kohl Center might be an answer to the problem as Zak Showalter showed off with perfection, scoring a career-high 21 points on 8-of-8 shooting and 4-for-4 from long range.

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard sees the bigger picture in Showalter's performance against Rutgers.

"We have had a lot of guys who have resembled Zac over the years in terms of the tenacity and effort he brings every practice," Gard said. "He goes 8-of-8 and doesn't miss a shot and was more active and taking charges. It has to remain our DNA to play hard, smart and together."

The Badgers outrebounded the Scarlet Knights 37-25 and Gard knows in order to win games in the Big Ten that dominant performances on the boards will be key.

"It is always important to clean up on the glass and I thought there was a couple of times we didn't in the first half, Gard said. 

"Anytime you can have hustle plays where you put the extra effort in to pay off. I like a lot of the extra effort things and that is something you can't replace."

Game Recap:

Koenig kickstarted the offensive swing with five straight points to put the Badgers ahead of the Scarlet Knights 10-4 with 15:44 left in the first half.

Rutgers would counter out of the timeout with an 8-2 run, fueled by a three-point make by Bishop Daniels and a basket/free-throw make from Greg Lewis.

In that stretch, Mike Williams scored RU's first six points and would go on to finish with a team-high 20, on 7-of-12 from the field.

After the completion of three-point play to even the score at 12, Lewis came back on the other end and was assessed a flagrant foul as he drilled Iverson in the head. Iverson failed to convert as he missed both free throws.

On the next play, Showalter would convert a triple from the wing  after the flagrant misses to kickstart a Wisconsin 13-2 run and much-needed momentum.

"Nigel hit me on the kickout to me and I had a lot of open looks all night, but that one meant more because coach always says if you have ten toes facing the rim, then you can knock it down," Showalter said.

The Badgers would lead for the remainder of the first half and Vitto Brown's jumper with seconds left gave them a 42-31 lead after 20 minutes over the Scarlet Knights.

The second half saw Rutgers muster a 10-3 run in the first 6:20, highlighted by a couple of layups from D.J. Foreman.

The Scarlet Knights' deficit would get no closer than four points as the Badgers hurdled to their first victory in Big Ten Conference play.

Game Notes:

Jonathan Laurent and Lewis bumped heads with one another late in the second half with Laurent on the wrong end of things as he layed on the floor a couple of minutes, but walked off under his own power.

Jordan gave an update on Laurent's status with the Maryland game on the horizon on Jan. 6.

"[Jonathan] banged heads really hard with [Greg] and was dazed," Jordan said. "Our next game is at Maryland and hopefully whatever concussion protocol there is, we will follow it and make sure he is healthy before he plays again."

Looking Ahead:

On Jan. 5, Wisconsin will travel to Bloomington, Ind., to take on Indiana for a 6 p.m. tip on ESPN, while Rutgers will look for its first conference victory on Jan. 6 at No. 4 Maryland at 6 p.m. start on BTN.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.