Bad though that may have been, PSU's second-straight defeat was nothing compared to what happened to Geary Claxton, the team's leading scorer and rebounder. Early in the game, the senior injured his left knee, and it turned out to be the end of his college career.
Penn State director of athletic medicine Wayne Sebastianelli said the preliminary indication is a torn ACL that will take a minimum of six months to rehab. Claxton will undergo an MRI Wednesday morning to determine if there is any other damage in the knee.
It is devastating for Geary, Lion coach Ed DeChellis said. I went in there at halftime and told him I loved him and hugged him. He's been such a great kid for us. But we have to figure out what our next move is and regroup as a team.
Penn State (10-6, 2-2 Big Ten) was already trailing 12-2 when Claxton made a strong drive to the basket with 13:21 remaining in the first half. He appeared to draw contact and fell to the ground awkwardly in a tangle of bodies.
No foul was called. And when the players un-piled, Claxton remained on the floor. He was quickly attended to by team trainer Jon Salazer and doctors. He stayed on the floor for several minutes - DeChellis eventually came over - before he was helped up. Then Claxton was assisted from the floor by doctors, taking a shortcut to the locker room.
Sebastianelli said the tests conducted while Claxton was on the floor and later in the locker room indicated he clearly has an injury to the ACL, and that the MRI will determine whether there are any other injuries in the knee.
Not long after Claxton was hurt, as his teammates were being methodically taken apart by the Badgers (PSU trailed by as many as 20 in the first half; the Lions opened by making only 5 of their first 22 shots), Claxton's parents were summoned to the locker room.
Penn State kept things respectable early in the second half, drawing as close as 11 on a David Jackson 3-pointer with 18:18 left and then sticking around a bit as Jamelle Cornley got hot. But Wisconsin, which improved to 14-2 (4-0 Big Ten), was never seriously threatened in extending its winning streak over the Lions to seven games.
It's not a secret that [Claxton] is the best and most dominant player on the team, Cornley said. Any time you lose a player of that magnitude, it takes away from what you want to do.
The Badgers blew open the game in the final 10 minutes, leading by as many as 31 (77-46) before cruising to the easy win. For PSU, meanwhile, it was a devastating loss.
In more ways than one.
Claxton entered the game as the Big Ten's second-leading scorer (18.7 ppg.) and rebounder (8.9 rpg.). He finishes his career as State's fifth-leading scorer all-time (1,542) and fourth-leading rebounder (755).
He was our leading scorer and rebounder; our best perimeter defender, DeChellis said. He could get you a basket when you needed it. A lot of things offensively, we would run through him.
We have to go back and figure out what we're going to do with all the stuff we put in the last two months, the coach added.
With Claxton out for the season, DeChellis said true freshman Jeff Brooks will be forced to see more playing time.
Cornley was the only Lion in double with 13 points.
Wisconsin won the battle of the boards, 41-22.
Penn State is at No. 9 Indiana Saturday. The game tips at 2 p.m. and will be carried by the Big Ten Network.