UW Can't Muster Even Normal One-Two Punch

Ryan Evans scored two points on an offensive rebound put-back, aiding to the seven total points scored by Badgers other than Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer Friday as UW struggled to a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament.

INDIANAPOLIS — It's not a question of whether Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer can score. Like any good basketball team with a talented one-two punch, the University of Wisconsin gets by with a rotating cast of third banana candidates.

Usually it's senior forward Keaton Nankivil providing the points, other nights Josh Gasser or Mike Bruesewitz step up.

The Badgers selected a bad game to vacate the "Best Supporting Scorer" role, in Friday's deflating 36-33 defeat to Penn State in Wisconsin's Big Ten Tournament opener. Of course, a worse time would be some game next weekend, but still, the setback won't help UW's seeding come Selection Sunday.

Nankivil, who admitted he "walked off the court about as frustrated as I ever have been", stared in a zombielike trance in UW's locker room trying to process the power outage. Wisconsin (23-8) hadn't scored less than 50 all season.

"We're using the same ball, same rim as everybody else," he said. "There's no reason for it."

Taylor and Leuer, each averaging over 18 points a game entering the postseason, account for 53 percent of UW's scoring and attempt just over half of UW's shots. On Friday, the guard-forward duo scored 26 of 33 points and fired up nearly three-quarters of the Badgers' shots.

No one wearing white beyond the Taylor-Leuer tandem made more than one shot.

"Give Penn State credit, they played tough defense and forced us into some stuff we're not used to," Nankivil said. "But a little balance would not only be good for us as a team, it would take a lot of pressure off (Taylor and Leuer) too."

When UW beat Penn State 76-66 on Feb. 20, Nankivil was the catalyst, scoring 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting - including perfection on five 3-pointers.

Nittany Lions guard Talor Battle, who became PSU's all-time leading scorer Friday despite just nine points on 3-of-18 shooting, said the game plan was to limit Nankivil in particular.

"All day, Coach (Ed DeChellis) was saying, Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer will get theirs, so let's keep Keaton Nankivil away from getting his'," Battle said. "Because he killed us up there (in Madison), when he scored 22.

"So we wanted to take him away, and fortunately, we took everyone away."

Imbalance wasn't the end of Wisconsin's offensive troubles. UW averages more than 15 free-throw attempts per game, but Jordan Taylor was the only Badger to go to the line all night, shooting 1-for-3.

According to sophomore Ryan Evans, it wasn't anything Penn State's defense did.

"It's what we didn't do," Evans said. "We didn't attack the rim strong enough, and that kind of reflected the whole outcome of the game. We needed to be more aggressive on the offensive end in order to make things happen, especially on a bad shooting night like this."

UW made just two of 21 3-pointers, a season-worst mark.

"We settled for jumpers way too much, and they weren't falling for us," freshman Josh Gasser said. "So we needed to get the ball in the post and pack it in a little better. We got good looks, we just didn't knock them down."

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