Preview: Penn State at Wisconsin

Ready to turn the page after a challenging, up-and-down nonconference season, Wisconsin will begin its 12th Big Ten season under coach Bo Ryanwhen it hosts Penn State Thursday night at the Kohl Center.

Penn State (8-4, 0-0 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (9-4, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Thursday, January 3, 7:30 p.m. Central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,249)

Television - BigTenNetwork (Dave Revsine and Mike Kelley)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt LePay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 28-10 (UW leads 16-2 in Madison)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 65-55, on February 29, 2012 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Junior Guard, 11.8 ppg)

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Senior Forward, 11.5 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 5.0 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Senior Forward, 7.0 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Senior Forward, 13.4 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 George Marshall (5-11 Freshman Guard, 5.5 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-7 Freshman Forward, 9.8 ppg)

32 Zak Showalter (6-2 Freshman Guard, 3.0 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Sophomore Forward, 5.4 ppg)

Penn State Probable Starters

2 D.J. Newbill (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 15.8 ppg)

10 Brandon Taylor (6-7 Freshman Forward, 7.3 ppg)

11 Jermaine Marshall (6-4 Junior Guard, 14.6 ppg)

21 Sasha Borovnjak (6-9 Senior Forward, 5.3 ppg)

43 Ross Travis (6-6 Sophomore Forward, 7.6 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Donovan Jack (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.2 ppg)

20 Nick Colella (6-3 Senior Guard, 4.4 ppg)

25 Jon Graham (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 2.6 ppg)

Last Time Out

MADISON (BadgerNation) - All things considered, a 9-4 record through nonconference play is a good mark for the University of Wisconsin considering the rash of injuries and inexperience the Badgers have had to deal with.

"We didn't have much experience coming into the season at the guard spots," said senior Ryan Evans, who registered his third double-double of the season in the Badgers' 87-51 blasting of Samford Saturday. "Just the teams that we played, like Arkansas and Marquette, that pressure is huge moving forward into the Big Ten season.

Senior forward Mike Bruesewitz was back in the starting lineup since suffering a concussion in early December and made the most of his time on the court. Bruesewitz slammed home his first points on an uncontested drive right down the lane, made his first six field goals and finished with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

With Samford (3-11) only had two players taller than 6-6 or taller on its roster, Bruesewitz and Wisconsin's huge size advantage held Samford to shot only 21 percent shooting in the first half (6-for-28) and 35.3 percent for the game.

With conference play starting Thursday with a home matchup against Penn State, Ryan used his rotation well and gave some minutes to sophomore forward Frank Kaminsky early. He shook off his early season struggles by posting a career-high 16 points, his third-career game scoring in double figures, and tallied a career-best four three-pointers (4-for-4 shooting).

UW used its size advantage to out-hustled and out-rebounded the Bulldogs, owning a 43-22 edge on the glass, 32-18 in the paint, has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 21-6 and got 33 points of the bench.

Last Meeting

MADISON (BadgerNation) - Gasser helped take the pressure off of Jordan Taylor by scoring 15 points, one of four Badgers in double figures, to help Wisconsin hold off struggling Penn State 65-55 on Sunday.

Berggren added 13 points, and Evans and Taylor scored 11 each for the Badgers (20-7, 9-5 Big Ten), who have won eight of their last 10 games and maintained their grip on fourth place in a tight conference race.

"It's always nice when you see the ball go through the hoop," said Taylor, who went 4-for-12 from the floor but 3-for-6 from three-point range. "It's definitely important to get it going early to help us build our lead."

It's a victory that Wisconsin earned because it started shooting, and making, the three-point shot. The Badgers entered the day seventh in the league in three-point shooting (35.1 percent), but only shooting 32.9 percent at home, numbers that have caused Wisconsin to lose four home games for the first time in UW coach Bo Ryan's 11 seasons on the bench.

After missing its first two attempts, Wisconsin hit 7 of its next 12 in the first half, including one on five straight possessions, to build a 35-21 halftime lead. The biggest catalyst in that half was Gasser, who hit a 3-pointer on three straight possessions that put the Badgers on a 15-2 run, building a 27-13 lead after 13 minutes.

Wisconsin finished 11 of 22 from three-point range, its best percentage in over a month.

"When shots are falling, everything seems to be going a little bit better," said Gasser. "Within our offense, we just got e got out in transition a little bit, got a few easy looks and those are always nice. Anytime you can knock down a few, you are going to be a little bit aggressive going forward."

The Nittany Lions (12-16, 4-11) came in riding their first two-game win streak since Dec. 18-21 and appeared ready to break a 14 game winless streak in Madison when it used a 17-2 run in the second half to cut the lead to 51-46 with 5:48 remaining.

That's as close as it would get, as Berggren hit a pair of 3-pointers to help Wisconsin close on a 14-9 run.

Series Notes:

UW has won 15 of the last 17 against PSU, including both meetings last season.

The Badgers have won 15 consecutive home games against Penn State, owning a perfect 12-0 record at the Kohl Center against the Nittany Lions. PSU's last win in Madison was in 1995. UW's 15-consecutive home wins over Penn State ranks as the 4th-longest active home win streak over a single Big Ten opponent.

Bo Ryan, a native of Chester, Pa. is 17-4 vs. Penn State all-time, including 10-0 at home.

PSU has averaged just 52.0 points per game over the last 17 meetings with UW, failing to reach 50 points in 8 of those contests.

UW has won 16 straight games vs. PSU when scoring at least 60 points.

Ryan's teams have won 10 of 11 Big Ten home openers, with the only loss coming last season in a 72-65 loss to Iowa on Dec. 31, 2011.

Penn State's last Big Ten road win came on March 6, 2011 at Minnesota. The Lions have lost their last nine.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin has held each of its last 16 home opponents to 60 points or less, dating back to last season. That is the longest active streak and tied for the second-longest in NCAA Div. 1 since 1996-97.

After a slow start to the season, Evans is regaining his versatile form, averaging 11.5 points and tied for 4th in the Big Ten with 7.4 boards per game. Evans tallied his 3rd double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds on Saturday vs. Samford.

Wisconsin ranks 4th in the Big Ten averaging 13.3 offensive rebounds per game and has recorded double-digit offensive boards in 11 of 13 games. UW averaged 9.7 offensive rebounds per game last season.

Wisconsin currently has 5 different players shooting better than 40 percent from behind the 3-point arc, including 3 of the Big Ten's top 10 shooters.

Penn State Notes:

Penn State brings a four-game win streak, its longest in two seasons under coach Patrick Chambers, into Thursday and has won five-straight at home going 7-1 at home on the year.

Penn State is 6-2 in the eight games since losing do-everything guard Tim Frazier to a season-ending Achilles injury. The Lions 8-4 record in the non-con season equaled their win total from last year (8-5), despite losing Frazier five minutes into the fourth game of the year.

Penn State shot a season-best 40 percent from three (8-20) making a season-high eight vs. Duquesne. The Lions are shooting 36.7 percent from three in the last four games after hitting 25 percent in their first eight on the year.

After getting 6.7 ppg from its bench over the first seven games, Penn State's bench has produced double-digit scoring in each of the last five including season highs of 20 points vs. New Hampshire and 25 vs. Duquesne to average 16.6 ppg over the last five outings. Much of that due to the increased production from senior Nick Colella and freshman Donovon Jack.

Penn State is 4-0 in games decided by seven points or less on the year, including two overtime wins. The Lions went 4-7 in 11 games decided by seven points or less last year.

Penn State has allowed seven opponents to eclipse 70 points on the year, winning three of those games, and having all four losses on the year come to opponents scoring 70+. Penn State is 4-17 under Patrick Chambers when opponents break 70 points.


If anyone can commiserate with Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan this season, it's Penn State coach Patrick Chambers. Just like Wisconsin has tried to adjust without its starting point guard, Penn State has had to adjust without senior guard Tim Frazier. The lone returning first-team All-Big Ten selection, Frazier was averaging 21.7 points per game until he ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the team's fourth game and is done for the season.

Strangely, Penn State has started to play better without him over the last eight games, albeit against so-so competition.

Penn State has actually improved its scoring average (58.8 ppg to 68.8 ppg) and shooting percentage (35.3 percent to 43.5 percent) over the last eight games while going 6-2. Penn State has posted its four best point (78, 80, 72 & 84) and assist totals (13, 15, 13 and 12) of the season in the last four games and three of its top for shooting games. The Lions are shooting 47 percent and scoring 78.5 ppg in the last four outings, an increase of nearly 20 ppg over their 58.9 ppg average over the first eight games of the year.

Unlike Wisconsin, Penn State has found a replacement for Frazier in Marshall. The junior has made the biggest increase since the loss of Frazier improving his scoring average by 6.5 ppg (10.3 to 16.8) and his shooting percentage from 30.6 percent to 44.0 percent (22.6 percent to 40.5 percent from three). He also has seen his assists rise dramatically from 0.7 apg to 3.0 apg.

Marshall is splitting point guard duties with Newbill, a natural No.2 guard who ranked second in the conference in minutes played (35.6). Newbill is the only Big Ten player to rank in the Top 15 of the conference statistics in scoring (6th, 15.8), assists (7th, 3.9) and rebounding (14th, 6.2). Working through growing pains at the position, he has posted nine-straight double-digit scoring games (including three 20-point outings).

For a team picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten, Penn State's talented guard combo will challenge Wisconsin's youth in the backcourt. Traevon Jackson is known more as a defender than a scorer, so he will be needed to play one of his better games (it will be good practice since there are going to be no days off until the end of the season).

The place where Penn State is getting exposed is the front court, as the Nittany Lions have three forwards under 6-9 and average only 37.4 rebounds per game. If Wisconsin's post players bring the same level of intensity they brought against Samford, the Badgers win this game by 14.

If they don't, it's going to be a long struggle for the Badgers in conference play this year.

Worgull's Record: 9-4

Points off Prediction: 150 (11.5 per game)

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