Sanders lifts Rutgers past Wisconsin 64-60
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By MATT SUGAM
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) There aren't must-win games in early January, but coming off a 31-point drubbing at No. 13 Purdue and on a three-game losing streak, Rutgers didn't want to travel to No. 1 Michigan State looking for its first Big Ten victory.
They won't have to.
"We all had the same mindset to go out there, compete, play hard and try and get the W," guard Corey Sanders said. "But those two games (at home vs. Stony Brook and Hartford) that we lost that we know we shouldn't of lost really got to us, and then that Purdue loss just added fuel to the fire. We came out today, had a chip on our shoulder, executed the game plan."
Sanders scored a season-high 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting to give Rutgers a much-needed win over Wisconsin, 64-60, Friday night.
After a Rutgers timeout, Sanders scored with 1:47 left then added a 3-pointer with under a minute to go for a 58-53 lead.
"We've been in that predicament already. Coming out of the timeout, we knew what to expect," said forward Deshawn Freeman, who scored 15 points. "I told Corey and Geo (Baker) to win the game for us, and Corey came out and hit two big shots for us and got the win."
Brad Davison hit Wisconsin's first 3-pointer of the game to tie it at 53 and cap a 7-0 run.
Tied at 15, Sanders hit a layup at the buzzer to give Rutgers a 25-24 lead at halftime but Wisconsin (9-8, 2-2 Big Ten) took the lead on the first possession of the second half.
The game went back and forth before Rutgers (11-6, 1-3) took the lead on a Sanders 3-pointer to make it 36-34 at the 13:38 mark. Sanders scored on an alley-oop followed by a Baker layup to close out a 14-2 run and give Rutgers a 42-35 lead.
Wisconsin was led by Ethan Happ's 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Nate Reuvers added 10 points. Happ had a career-high seven turnovers, while Wisconsin had 14 as a team.
"That's too many. That needs to be cut in half. That's where it needs to be," coach Greg Gard said of the turnovers. "I'll look and see what the turnovers were. There were a couple charges. I'll see if those were self-inflicted or something defensively that was taken away. I'll go through the film and grade it. I'll get a better idea from that."
Wisconsin: On the start of a three-game Big Ten road trip, the Badgers dropped to .500 in the conference.
Rutgers: After two embarrassing home losses to Stony Brook and Hartford to close nonconference play, Rutgers was drubbed at No. 13 Purdue. The win snaps a three-game losing streak and gave Rutgers' its first Big Ten win.
Wisconsin struggled from 3-point land, going 0 of 9 before Davison hit one with two minutes left in the game. The Badgers finished the game 2 of 13 from beyond the arc.
Rutgers has had trouble from the line all season. Poor free-throw shooting cost Rutgers in losses against Stony Brook and Hartford. Against Wisconsin, Rutgers went 9 of 16, below its average of 61 percent.
Wisconsin: Visits Nebraska on Tuesday night.
Rutgers: At No. 1 Michigan State on Wednesday night.
Updated January 5, 2018