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No. 12 Wisconsin halts Rutgers’ upset bid with strong second half

Wisconsin Badgers forward Ethan Happ (22) works the ball against Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard Issa Thiam (35) during the first half Monday, Dec. 3, at the Kohl Center. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Field Level Media

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo made a point to extend praise to Rutgers following Friday's road win.

On Monday, Wisconsin discovered why the Hall of Fame coach tossed numerous compliments toward the Scarlet Knights. The No. 12 Badgers needed to rely on a second-half scoring surge to avoid an upset, defeating the visiting Scarlet Knights 69-64 in Big Ten Conference play.

The Badgers (8-1, 2-0) trailed the entire first half but outscored Rutgers 43-33 in the final 20 minutes. After being held to eight points, Wisconsin's Ethan Happ bounced back in the second half. He finished 10 for 17 from the field for a game-high 20 points to go with four rebounds and three assists. D'Mitrik Trice continued his hot play with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting for the Badgers.

Trice, who leads the Big Ten in 3-point shooting, made both of his 3-point shots.

Junior forward Eugene Omoruyi led Rutgers with 17 points and sophomore guard Geo Baker added 15. The Scarlet Knights (5-3, 0-2) were coming off a 78-67 home loss to the Spartans and quickly grabbed the momentum by making 10 of their first 17 shots at the Kohl Center. Trice sparked the Badgers at the start of the second half, with two baskets and a steal in the opening minute.

Playing their third game in six days took a toll on the Scarlet Knights. They committed 19 fouls and shot 5 for 16 on 3-pointers.

Happ gave Wisconsin its first lead with a layup at 37-35 with 16:15 left in regulation. Less than two minutes later, Happ's basket extended the lead to 41-37. Entering the game, Happ was averaging 17.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists.