The No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (4-2 Big Ten, 10-3 overall) head to Piscataway, N.J. to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-4 Big Ten, 7-4 overall) on Friday evening. Both teams are looking to recover from debilitating losses. For the Badgers, it’s their worst loss of the season to No. 7 Michigan last Tuesday; for the Scarlet Knights, it’s a three-game Big Ten losing streak that’s lasted all of 2021.
Rutgers is playing their first game in five days, and the Scarlet Knights needed that rest. They played atrociously against Ohio State on Sunday at home to lose their third straight. The other two losses were a bludgeoning in East Lansing by Michigan State where the Knights scored just 45 points and a heartbreaker against Luka Garza and Iowa by a score of 77-75.
Of course, the Badgers didn’t fare much better in their last game, but at least it isn’t a streak…yet.
Rutgers does have some impressive wins under its belt this season. The Scarlet Knights were able to topple the top-20 Illini by just three points in a game where they scored 91 points. They also took down the Maryland Terrapins by double-digits, which the Badgers famously couldn’t pull off this season, and nabbed a 10 point win against tri-state rival Syracuse.
Despite the three-game skid, Steve Pikiell’s squad is no pushover by any means. Earlier this season, Rutgers was ranked as high as No. 13 in the AP Poll before they were decimated by COVID-19 and multiple injuries. Star-guard Geo Baker is still dealing with a high ankle sprain that kept him relatively ineffective recently. Breakout freshman Cliff Omoruyi has been dealing with a knee injury since late December that has kept him out of multiple games; since the Scarlet Knights lost his rim-protecting ability, they’ve gone just 1-4. The Benin City, Nigeria native has begun non-contact drills but likely won’t be prepared to face the Badgers.
Even with injuries, the Scarlet Knights are a force in the Big Ten. While last season’s breakout star was Baker, this season’s is junior Ron Harper, Jr., the son of former New York Knicks point guard Ron Harper. Harper, Jr. is averaging over 20 points per game on an incredible 51.7% shooting from the field and 45% from deep. Senior point guard Jacob Young has stepped up in the wake of Baker’s injury with 15.5 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.4 steals per game. Junior center Myles Johnson has stepped up to replace Omoruyi as well, averaging over two blocks per contest.
The Badgers haven’t felt welcome at the Rutgers Athletic Center ever since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten. Wisconsin has gone 0-3 at the RAC in that time, including a loss last year.
Greg Gard and his veteran Badgers will try to break their losing streak at the RAC at 8 p.m. Central Time on FS1.