Wisconsin benched its starting five by the first media timeout, missed its first nine 3-point attempts and trailed by 16 points after a Tim Frazier lay-up at 9 minutes, 58 seconds of the first half. Sounds thrilling, doesn't it?
Still, the Badgers went into the locker room down 20-16 after making that Frazier lay-up the last made field goal of the half for Penn State, giving them a chance before crumbling down the stretch to lose, 36-33, to sixth-seed Penn State Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.
After Wisconsin didn't make a field goal for 7:27, Penn State didn't make a field goal for 12:21 of game time, allowing the Badgers the opportunity to tie the game three times in the second half, the latest coming at the 10:37 mark.
"We played good defensively," said freshman Josh Gasser. "Take away the first 10 minutes of the game, we played really well. We couldn't get anything going offensively, which was the key. If we would have played better defensively the first 10 minutes, it could have changed the game."
UW point guard Jordan Taylor, playing his first game since being named to the conference's All-Defensive team Monday, did his job against Penn State senior Talor Battle. Battle hit the game's opening shot, a 3-pointer, to give the Nittany Lions a lead it would never relinquish.
It wasn't that easy for Battle for the rest of the game, as the senior first-team All-Big Ten selection went 3-for-18 shooting, but still managed to lead his team with 9 points; 11.4 points below his season's average.
No solace in that for Taylor, who brought up his lack of defense on a 3-pointer Battle made with 2:24 remaining to give Penn State a 35-30 lead.
"We played pretty good team defense trying to shut off avenues but as far as I am concerned, he hit the game-winning basket," Taylor said. "He's 3-for-18, but 1-for-1 when it counted."
Penn State shot 33.3 percent (13 of 39) from the floor and 3 of 12 (25 percent) from 3-point range.
On His Shoulders
Just like taking blame for his defense on Battle on the late 3-pointer, Taylor took most of the blame on his shoulders for an offense that averaged .758 points per possession on Friday night.
"We have nobody to blame but ourselves, on my part especially," Taylor said. "I forced a lot of things … and it set the team back. I've got to make better decisions. Shots didn't fall … because of the way we ran the offense and it's my job to get us into the offense."
Taylor had a chance to erase all his team's ill will by hitting a game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds, but admits that his attempt to draw a foul by learning in to Battle as he released the ball was not the best idea. Taylor badly missed the shot, leading to a Penn State rebound and dribbling out the final second.
Hitting the Bricks
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is on the other side of town, but the Badgers seem to hit the wall recently each time it touches down for the conference tournament.
After losing its quarterfinals game as the fourth seed each of the last two seasons, Wisconsin upgraded to a three seed, and responded by being involved in the lowest scoring game in the 14 year history of the tournament.
"The last three years, we haven't shot the ball well," said senior Tim Jarmusz, who has not won in Indianapolis since winning the tournament in 2008. "If you aren't shooting the ball well, sometimes it snowballs on other things. We just have to come out ready to play. The first five minutes can set the tone for the game. We haven't done that the last couple years."
The Badgers' early exit has not translated to success in the NCAA Tournament, as Wisconsin has been bounced in the second round to Xavier and Cornell, respectively.
"We still have a lot to prove," said senior Keaton Nankivil. "We need to figure some things out to show people we are the team we thought we were."
A Buckle for Bruesewitz
He was one of the key figures to force a shot clock violation with 9:54 left and the score tied at 26, but sophomore Mike Bruesewitz may have played his last game this season.
Bruesewitz's right knee buckled as he slid and started to plant to get into defensive position against Jeff Brooke on the perimeter. He compounded the issue by seeing some of his weight fall on the leg. He was taken directly to the locker room. He returned to the bench with 4:47 remaining, his right knee in a brace, but he did not log any minutes.
Bruesewitz was the team's third-leading scorer at the time of his departure (two points), but had grabbed a team-high five rebounds. Wisconsin classified the injury simple as a ‘lower leg' injury, and Bruesewitz needed support heading for the team bus with an ice pack wrapped around his right knee and ankle.
"Mike's a huge part of this team with his energy, rebounding and ability to knock down the open shot," Jarmusz said. "Hopefully he's OK, but everyone is going to have to come together as a group and pick up for him."
- When Nankivil made his first basket, a 3-pointer to pull the Badgers within 35-33, he became the team's third-leading scorer.
- Wisconsin's loss breaks the Badgers' 20-game winning streak of earning a victory after losing the previous game. The Badgers lost 93-65 at Ohio State on Sunday.
- Jon Leuer (10 points) has now scored in double figures in 38 straight games. His production moved into seventh on Wisconsin's all-time single-season scoring list, now with 577.