PISCATAWAY, New Jersey — In becoming the first Top 5 team to lose to Rutgers, No. 4 Wisconsin discovered just how vulnerable it can be.
Short-handed because a couple of injuries and overwhelmed by the Scarlet Knights' hot shooting in the second half, the Badgers allowed a 14-point first-half lead to disappear in a 67-62 loss on Sunday night that turned into Rutgers' greatest upset.
The highest ranked team Rutgers had previously beaten was No. 6 Virginia in February, 1982. Despite not having Frank Kaminsky for the entire game due to a concussion, and missing point guard Traevon Jackson down the stretch with a foot injury, the Badgers (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) were not making excuses.
"We let this one slip away," said forward Sam Dekker, who had 15 points along with Nigel Hayes. "We didn't play well down the stretch, we didn't have a good second half whatsoever, but we have to bounce back. Good teams are the ones that can put losses behind them, learn from them and get better."
Dekker feels the loss will show Wisconsin what it's made of after having an eight-game winning streak snapped
"Absolutely," the forward said. "Losses happen. It's part of basketball. Either you win or you lose. Tonight we were on the losing side, and that (stinks). I'm very disappointed in our effort.
"We can learn from this and learn that we're not invincible. We can get knocked off. We have to be the aggressor, be the hunter instead of the hunted and accept that," Dekker added. "Go out and get better and be ready to win."
The Badgers appeared ready to do that after taking a 29-15 lead, as Kaminsky's absence was hardly noticed.
Rutgers (10-7, 2-2) won the game with a big second half led by Myles Mack, who had 19 of his 21 points. Kadeem Jack added 20 points for the Scarlet Knights, who shot 67 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes in overcoming a 12-point halftime deficit.
A couple of dozen fans ran on the court after the final buzzer but the crowd of 6,887 was remarkably well restrained after the contest ended, possibly wondering how a team that lost to St. Peter's and St. Francis, Pennsylvania, earlier this season, knocked off a team that went to the Final Four last year.
"I think we saw N.C. State upset Duke and we kind of said that's gonna be us with the whole rushing in the floor and stuff like that," Jack said of the Wolfpack's win over the No. 2 Blue Devils earlier Sunday. "It's crazy for it to come into fruition like that."
The Scarlet Knights, the worst shooting team in the Big Ten, hit 5 of 7 from 3-point range in the final 20 minutes and finished the game shooting 54 percent against the league's top-ranked defensive team.
"When you give a team confidence in front of their home crowd, and they hit shots, and you let teams get on a roll and when you get yourself down, it's hard to come back," Hayes said.
Despite missing key players, Wisconsin held the lead until Mack hit two free throws for a 54-53 lead with 7:19 to play. A dunk by Malick Kone pushed the margin to 56-53 with 5:15 to go and two more free throws by Mack and a drive by Jack extended the lead to 60-53 with 3:13 to play.
Wisconsin made a final run. Two free throws by Zak Showalter and a drive and a 3-pointer by Hayes got the Badgers within 62-60 with 1:04 to go.
However, Mack drove the lane for a layup with 30.4 seconds left to build the lead to 64-60 and Jack made two free throws with 23.3 seconds left after Bronson Koenig (12 points) cut the lead to 64-62 with a jumper.
Wisconsin was 5 of 21 from 3-point range, with Dekker and Gasser a combined 0 for 9. This was the Badgers first loss in the conference and their first loss on the road this season.
Wisconsin: Kaminsky's absence marked the first time in 77 games that a Badgers' starter missed a game because of an injury. The last time was against Milwaukee on Dec. 22, 2012.
Rutgers: Jack woke up Rutgers crowd early in the second half with a monster dunk. He made the mistake of hanging on the rim on the play and was called for a technical, setting up two free throws by Josh Gasser and a basket by Dekker.
Wisconsin: hosts Nebraska on Tuesday.
Rutgers: visits No. 11 Maryland on Wednesday.
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