PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Coming off his worst outing of the season, Geo Baker knew he had to be more assertive.
Baker scored 22 points in bouncing back to lead Rutgers past Wisconsin 72-65 on Wednesday night.
Baker had just four points on 1-of-7 shooting in Rutgers’ loss at No. 11 Michigan State on Sunday night, having come into that game averaging 13 points per game. He was 9-of-18 in the win over Wisconsin (5-5, 1-1 Big Ten).
“You always got to stay positive and stay aggressive,” Baker said. "I felt like I wasn’t aggressive in the Michigan State game, looking for my shots and then when it’s not there, find open teammates, so I really wanted to come out aggressive against Wisconsin and am just happy that it worked out this game.”
Rutgers (7-3, 1-1) opened the game with a 9-0 run and never trailed until Baker was stripped by Aleem Ford in the final seconds of the first half while driving the lane for a layup. Forder hit Trevor Anderson on the outlet pass and he sank a three-pointer from the left win at the buzzer to give the Badgers 33-32 halftime lead.
However, it wouldn’t last long.
After trading a couple of leads, Akwasi Yeboah stole the ball from Nate Reuvers and had a fast-break layup to give Rutgers a 38-36 lead at the 17:15 mark. Yeboah would score eight points and grab eight rebounds before fouling out with 1:30 to go. Rutgers would lead by as many as nine with under a minute left.
Kobe King led Wisconsin with 18 points.
Myles Johnson added 12 points and seven rebounds for Rutgers.
“I told myself this was a big game, I need to do whatever I need to do,” Johnson said. “Luckily today, things were clicking and I was getting rebounds and making all my shots, so it was just a good day for me.”
Wisconsin: The Badgers are still seeking their first road win of the season as they drop back to .500. They’ll have three more non-conference games, including at No. 19 Tennessee, to improve that record before it’s back to conference play against No. 3 Ohio State.
Rutgers: The Scarlets Knights got a much-needed win in the midst of their toughest four-game stretch of the season thus far. After losing at Pitt and No. 11 Michigan State to open Big Ten play, Rutgers bounced back before its big rivalry game against No.22 Seton Hall. They’ll then have two more non-conference games before it’s back to Big Ten play.
Cleaning the glass
Rutgers outrebounded Wisconsin 40-26 and 14-3 on the offensive glass, leading to a 23-5 advantage in second-chance points.
“I thought they were more physical, and we didn't respond to it well,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "We missed some block-outs, but there were other times when they just flat-out took it from us."
Rutgers is 1-1 in the Big Ten for the first time since joining the conference in 2014-15 when it started off 1-1 under coach Eddie Jordan.
“It’s really big," Johnson said. "First time since I’ve been here that we’ve been 1-1. I think it sets the tone for the rest of the season that this is different. This is a different year. This isn’t the same year where we finish .500. This is a different year.”
Wisconsin: Host Milwaukee on Saturday, Dec. 21.
Rutgers: Host intrastate rival No. 22 Seton Hall on Saturday.