Game Notes: Wisconsin vs Penn State
Lions outlast Badgers in brutal battle.
by Quinn Peterson / @QwinFNP
Following 7-seeded Michigan St.’s upset win over Purdue, Penn St. looked to pull the same feat over Wisconsin. They succeeded, jumping out to an 18-2 start taking down the Badgers, 36-33, in a ghastly, horrendous, unpleasant (pick any synonym) battle.
(Meanwhile, Jimmer Fredette was busy outscoring both of these teams.)
“It was an ugly, physical Big Ten game,” reflected Penn St. guard Talor Battle.
While the First-Team All-Big Ten selection got the Nittany Lions going with a three-pointer on the opening possession, the Badgers responded with an uncharacteristic turnover. Clearly, something was off.
Seven more unanswered points from PSU, including a wide open three, forced Bo Ryan to call timeout. Pulling his starters, the Badgers returned to the floor with an all-reserve unit hoping to get something going. That didn’t work either.
With the starters returning just a couple minutes later, the Badgers trailed Penn St. 12-0. Finally, a Jordan Taylor jumper stopped the drought nearly eight minutes into the game.
As bad as UW’s 1-10 shooting start was, Penn St., conversely, was efficient, opening up 6-9 from the field. Even after Taylor’s basket, the struggles were not over for Wisconsin, who would go another three minutes before scoring again.
Luckily for always-poised Wisconsin, Penn St. ran into some shooting struggles of their own, making just two of their final 14 shots in the half. Combined with Penn St.’s woes, a 9-2 run helped get things back under control for the Badgers.
“It was just a war. No one cold hit a shot,” said Battle.
After 20 minutes, the score was merely: Penn St. 20, Wisconsin 16. The Nittany Lions shooting 8-23; Badgers 7-25.
Obviously, given these shooting percentages, this was an ugly game. Battle, PSU’s leading scorer, was just 1-8. All of Wisconsin’s points belonged to Jordan Taylor, who had 10, and Jon Leuer.
“We started playing Wisconsin’s pace. We didn’t play our pace which is uptempo,” said PSU forward Jeff Brooks.
One might have expected the tempo to surely pick up in the second half. Not the case. As bad as the first half was, the second was equally as bad, if not worse.
Wisconsin began the second half by force-feeding Leuer, looking to play inside-out. Though a great idea, it only led to modest success. The Badgers were, however, able to draw tie things up for the first all evening. Trading baskets — and missed baskets — a Jon Leuer pass to a cutting Mike Brueswitz led to a layup, bringing the score to 22 apiece.
Jockeying back and forth, both teams continued to struggle finding the hole. Each time, Wisconsin appeared to be in position to make a run, Penn St. found an answer. Many times in the second half, that answer was forward Brooks.
A Battle layup with 5:30 to play was his first basket since the game’s opening play. Missing three’s on the following two possessions, Battle finally knocked one down at the 2:24 mark, giving the Nittany Lions a 35-30 lead.
“Coach kept calling plays for me, so I had to eventually hit one,” he said. “Funny thing is, the two previous threes I shot, even though I was a little off-balance, they felt so good coming off my hand I actually thought they were in. I told Tim Frazier, ‘Tim just find me and I promise I’m gonna knock one in. Time did a great job of finding and I just shot the ball with confidence.”
Several missed shots later, Wisconsin center Keaton Nankivil made a three to cut the deficit to two. After getting the stop they needed, Taylor’s potential go-ahead 3-pointer bounced off the front of the rim.
“It felt good, it seemed like a good look. It’s frustrating,” Taylor mused after the game.
Grabbing the rebound, Battle was fouled immediately with 11 seconds left. Making the first, but missing the second, extending their lead to three, Wisconsin got one last look. Unfortunately, Taylor, who seemed to be expecting contact, airmailed his three point attempt. Game.
Battle, who finished just 3-18, led Penn St. with nine (yes, nine), while Taylor had 16 for Wisconsin. Penn St. shot a frigid 13-39, only to be topped by 15-51, including 2-21 from downtown.
“At first I thought it was just me, now I see everyone wasn’t really hitting any [shots]. It was just an ugly game, you know, but we fought and found a way to win.”
“We wasn’t making shots, but we played defense, you know, we got rebounds, got the stops we needed and came out with the win,” said Brooks.
Nittany Lions punch their ticket — in their minds, at least — and live to play another day.
“I can tell you one thing: when we’re down 18-2, for these guys to have a chance in the last minute, that’s the only positive that I can get from this game,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. “Fortunately, we have a next. A lot of times, you don’t.”