The 79-71 defeat at No. 19 Wisconsin was not particularly bad from a scoring perspective. However, it was extremely difficult to take in the what-might-have-been department.
The Nittany Lions went into the game winless in the Big Ten due to a six-game losing streak. Having lost 11 straight in Madison and playing a team riding a streak of 50-straight victories over unranked league foes, Penn State appeared to have little chance of winning at Kohl Center.
But thanks to a well-rounded scoring effort that saw three Lions reach double figures for only the second time in conference action, a stingy zone defense that held the Badgers in check most of the way and more great work on the boards, PSU was not only competitive in this game but also dominated at times.
PSU held double-digit leads in both halves and was up by 16, 52-36, when David Jackson made a jumper with 11:14 left in the game. But Wisconsin finished with a flurry, finally finding its range against the zone and using a 24-8 run to tie it at 60-60 when Jordan Taylor made a runner in the lane with 26 seconds showing.
Penn State held for one shot, and the ball never left the hands of guard Talor Battle. He faked a drive on Taylor with a few seconds to go before launching a 3-pointer that just missed at the buzzer.
After surviving the scare in regulation, the Badgers did not mess around in overtime, scoring seven straight points and going up 67-60 when Taylor scored off a steal. Penn State did not seriously threaten the rest of the way.
Battle had another strong game, finishing with 28 points, eight rebounds and six assists before fouling out in the extra session. Chris Babb scored 16 and Jackson added 12. Rookie Bill Edwards made his second straight start, and had nine points and eight rebounds. But he was once again terrible with the ball, committing six turnovers.
Turnovers really hurt the Lions as a team, too, as they had 18, including four in a three-minute stretch when Wisconsin trimmed the lead from 52-39 to 52-51. State also had a pair of turnovers (both by Ott) in the final 1:26 of regulation, and both led to Badger scores.
Trevon Hughes led Wisconsin with 22 while Taylor had 20 points and six assists. Forward Keaton Nankivil kept the Badgers in it early and finished with 17 points (on 7-of-9 shooting) and seven rebounds.
Penn State is 8-11 overall and 0-7 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin improved to 16-4 and 6-2.
The Lions face Illinois at the Jordan Center Wednesday.