Penn State Set for Wisconsin, Seeking Fourth Straight Win
David Hadar, Jake Starr, Jeremy Ganes and Matt McClure discuss this weekend's upcoming matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers.
In a noon tip-off, the 19th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (19-9, 11-6) will play host to the visiting Penn State Nittany Lions (12-16, 5-12) at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Badgers enter this contest amid a slide, having lost three of their last five. Most recently, they suffered a road overtime defeat to the lowly Indiana Hoosiers by a score of 75-73. Struggling to shoot it from the floor, Wisconsin only converted on 27 of 69 field goal attempts. Senior forward Ethan Happ accounted for nine of those successful field goals en route to a 23-point outing. Happ is the unquestioned leader of this team, earning nomination to the preseason All-American team, and living up to the billing so far.
Meanwhile, Penn State is 5-2 in its last seven games. As rumors swirled about head coach Pat Chambers’ job security during a 10-game conference losing streak, fans wondered when that elusive first Big Ten victory would come. However, ever since a road win against Northwestern, Chambers’ squad has played with a new sense of urgency on both the offensive and defensive ends.
With upsets against Michigan and most recently Maryland under their belts, the Nittany Lions have played their best basketball all season. This is in no small part due to junior forward Lamar Stevens. Scoring at least 24 points in four of his last five games, Stevens has been the team leader that many expected him to be all season long. Averaging just a tick under 20 points per game, he’s the second leading scorer in the conference behind Purdue sensation Carsen Edwards.
While the Badgers have steadied the ship and played the type of basketball expected of them since their last meeting with the Nittany Lions, this Penn State squad should pose a much more significant threat than that of the 71-52 shellacking at the Bryce Jordan Center. The turnover woes that plagued the Nittany Lions in that contest still linger, but their shooting percentages have seen a serious uptick.
Players such as Stevens and junior forward Mike Watkins have each shot over 50 percent in the last three conference matchups. It will be vital for the Nittany Lions to keep up their hot shooting. The last time these two teams met, Penn State shot below 38 percent while Wisconsin hovered right around 50 percent.
For the Badgers, working their inside-out game remains the key to their success. Happ remains a player of the year candidate, averaging a double-double, and is at his best when looking for his teammates on the perimeter. Though Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice combined to go 3 of 14 from the floor against Indiana. Their outside shooting is instrumental to the Badgers’ success.
Winning in Madison is no easy task for any team, and for a team as young as the Nittany Lions, they surely will have their hands full. Relying on youthful playmakers like freshman guards Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton could prove problematic in front of a hostile Wisconsin student section, as well as the other 15,000+ fanatics in attendance.
Assuming things follow script, expect the advantage of Happ in the post over Watkins and sophomore John Harrar to be too much for the Nittany Lions to handle.
Final score prediction: Wisconsin 74, Penn State 63
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.