Basketball Game Grades: Wisconsin
Penn State was unable to pick up an upset win over Wisconsin on Tuesday, as the Badgers proved to be just too much in the second half for the Nittany Lions. The Nittany Lions gave the Badgers a fight in the first half, as they were only down 36-33 heading into halftime.
Coming out of the first half, the Badgers took control and never looked back, outscoring the Nittany Lions on their way to a 27-point victory and maintaining their spot amongst the tops in the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions were only able to muster up 55 total points against the Badgers on the road, well below their seasonal average of about 71 points per game and coach Pat Chambers’ goal of 80 points per contest. In the first half, the Nittany Lions stood tall against the Badgers and fought tremendously on the offensive end. Shep Garner, who has been struggling in Big Ten play, was perfect from the 3-point line in the first half and the Nittany Lions as a team were above 50 percent.
Where the wheels began to come off was in the second half, where the Nittany Lions only rummaged together a total of 22 points in the second half. The Nittany Lions showed their youth in a hostile environment coughing up 17 turnovers, which is a cardinal sin against a team of Wisconsin’s caliber. No player for the Nittany Lions was able to get going in the second half, which made the lead become ultimately insurmountable.
While the final score does not indicate it, the defense for the Nittany Lions was not terrible. The Badgers were held to under 50 percent shooting from the field, and under 40 percent from 3-point land. Along with the shooting totals, the Nittany Lions had three more blocks than Wisconsin, and held Wisconsin star Nigel Hayes under ten points. However, Wisconsin star Bronson Koenig continued his hot streak, pouring in 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting.
Where Wisconsin buttered their bread was on the block. While the Nittany Lions defense was not atrocious, its size was exploited. Penn State was forced to go to their smaller lineup many times during the game to keep Mike Watkins out of foul trouble. Wisconsin found this weakness and attacked it mercilessly, getting to the foul line 29 times compared to the Nittany Lions’ 12 times. The Badgers also used the Nittany Lions’ size weakness to outrebound the team by 14 and gather more defensive rebounds than the Nittany Lions’ total.
The Nittany Lions have now dropped three straight in Big Ten play, with the last two losses being by an average of 26 point. To the Nittany Lions’ chagrin, the teams they have recently lost to are in the upper crop of Big Ten teams, whereas they are up and coming.
There is still much room for improvement as the Nittany Lions do not have a single senior on their roster. The Nittany Lions will look to bounce back Saturday against Illinois back in the Bryce Jordan Center.
Ron Redden is a junior broadcast journalism major, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.