Badgers Trip Up Penn State

No. 14 Wisconsin's strong perimeter play trumps the Nittany Lions' paint dominance at the BJC. PSU slips back below .500 on the season.

In the days before the 3-point shot was implemented, a performance like the one Penn State uncorked against No. 14 Wisconsin at the Jordan Center Sunday probably would have led to a blowout victory.

The Nittany Lions mauled the Badgers inside, scoring a season-high 50 points in the paint. They had 28 field goals to UW's 22, and made a higher percentage of their overall shots (48.3 to 44.0). PSU claimed the rebounding battle, 34-28.

Of course, in the nearly three decades the 3-pointer has been with us, it has become a great equalizer. And Sunday, it mitigated all of Penn State's inside damage and then some as Wisconsin escaped with a 71-66 victory.

“We needed to hold them to under seven threes,” Nittany Lion coach Pat Chambers said. “I think that was the difference in the game.”

UW shot 8 of 24 from the arc in stretching its winning streak to seven games while improving to 24-5 and 11-5 in the Big Ten. Penn State, meanwhile, bricked all but one of its 13 triple attempts in falling to 14-15 and 5-11.

PSU has two regular-season games remaining -- both on the road --before heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament March 13. With the loss, the Lions are once again tied for last place in the league, and has its work cut out for it if it hopes to make a postseason tournament.

The Badgers remained in the mix for the No. 2 seed at Big Tens, thanks to another strong game plan by veteran coach Bo Ryan. UW took its lumps inside from the Lions so it could push out and prevent any deep haymakers.

“You're going to give up some points in the paint to a team like Penn State,” Ryan said. “The thing you can't let them do is -- some of these shooters, they go on runs. So I thought we did a really good job of defending the 3-point line.”

The only Nittany Lion to get on any sort of run was guard D.J. Newbill, who may be the best slashing guard in the conference. The junior carved up the Badger defense over and over with drives to the rim. He was 10 of 17 on 2-point shots and finished with a game-high 23 points.

“We did a good job of getting points in the paint,” Newbill said. “We didn't have to settle for threes.”

They did, however, have to make more of the triples they attempted. Newbill was 1 of 6 from the arc. The rest of the team was 0 of 7.

Speaking of which, Chambers said, “We're OK with getting 50 points in the paint. We just need a second scorer. Newbill can't do it all by himself.”

Newbill's usually effective backcourt mate, senior Tim Frazier, was completely off his game due to foul trouble. He had 10 points, three turnovers and only two assists in what was likely his final home outing. Frazier picked up his third foul on an illegal screen (Chambers said it was a good call) with 2:54 left in the first half.

“He's a senior,” Chambers said. “He's got to know better.”

The Badgers never led by more than 10 points in the game (43-33 with 15:56 remaining). But in the second half, Penn State never could catch them, either.

Down 33-31 with 18:04 left, Frazier fired an ugly 3-pointer on a break. There was a long rebound, and UW guard Traevon Jackson broke the other way. Frazier was the only man back, and with the three fouls he had to let Jackson score.

It was one of seven times in the half the Lions would draw within a bucket. On the first five, PSU allowed the Badgers to counter with a score of their own (including a pair of 3-pointers).

“They were daggers,” Chambers said. “Absolute daggers.”

With 3:21 left, PSU finally held after cutting the lead to 62-59, as Jackson missed a triple. But Newbill had turnovers on State's next two possessions, and UW scored off both, making it 66-59 with 1:23 showing.

Penn State had only 11 miscues in the game. But the Badgers turned them into 17 points, including the four big ones late.

“They pretty much scored every time we turned the ball over,” Chambers said.

The Lions went into scramble mode and managed to get within a basket one last time -- 66-64 when Frazier made a layup with :18 showing. But they had to foul to try to get the ball back, and Ryan's squad hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final :17 to cap it.

On the heels of Thursday's home upset of No. 20 Ohio State, Chambers and company were left wondering what might have been.

“We're one stop way, we're one made shot away, we're one turnover away from beating two Top-25 teams in a week,” the coach said.


SHORT SHOTS

• It was “Team Ream Day” at the BJC, as late PSU punter and Coaches vs. Cancer spokesman Brandon Ream was honored by former members of multiple Penn State athletic teams and the action sports world in an emotional halftime ceremony.

• All fans were given “Team Ream” T-shirts to wear. In a classy gesture (both ways), special red shirts were made for the Wisconsin fans in attendance, and many of them wore them.

• Penn State football coach James Franklin watched the game from courtside seats. At halftime, he posed for dozens of photos with fans.

• The 50 points in the paint were a season high for PSU.

• Wisconsin had only 18 points in the paint.

• Forward Ross Travis added 10 points for the Lions.

• Guards Josh Gasser (15), Ben Brust (14) and Jackson (13) paced UW.

• The Badgers had 15 assists and just eight turnovers.

• Penn State closes the regular season with a pair of road games, starting at Northwestern Thursday (7 p.m., ESPNU). The two teams are tied for last in the Big Ten and it is their only meeting this year.

• There are three postseason tournaments besides the NCAA. The NIT and CIT both require .500 or better records. However, Purdue and Texas both made the CBI with losing records last season, and the Boilermakers even got a home game.


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