Wisconsin hasn’t found it easy to replace the production of departed stars Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, not to mention starters in Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson.
But it got production Saturday, coming from an unlikely source.
Zak Showalter scored 21 points for the Badgers, who despite leading by as few as four in the second half, pulled away from Rutgers for a 79-57 win in Madison.
Wisconsin had an 11-point lead at halftime, but Rutgers opened the second half on an 8-1 run to cut that lead to four. The lead was that small again with about 13 and a half minutes to play, but Showalter responded with a three-point play and hit a 3-pointer not long after to push the advantage back to double digits. It was part of a 20-7 run that allowed the Badgers to runaway with this one.
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Wisconsin shot a scintillating 53.4 percent from the field, also crushing Rutgers — which shot just 39.7 percent — in the rebounding battle, 37-25.
Showalter’s 21 points were a career high, and he was a perfect 8-for-8 from the field, including a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
Joining Showalter with big days were Ethan Happ, who had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Bronson Koenig, who scored 14 points.
Mike Williams scored 20 points to lead the Scarlet Knights, and Bishop Daniels scored 11 points.
Wisconsin got its first conference win of the season, the first Big Ten win for interim head coach Greg Gard. The Badgers are 9-6 on the season and 1-1 in league play. Next up is a Tuesday trip to Indiana.
Rutgers dropped to 6-9 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Knights visit Maryland on Wednesday.