As Penn State proved, however, nothing is going to come easy in the Big Ten this year.
Senior Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans and junior guard Ben Brust all scored 13 points each, as Wisconsin hung on after almost blowing a double-digit lead to win its 10th straight Big Ten opener with a 60-51 victory over the Nittany Lions.
"You can say we closed this one out," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "It might not have looked pretty, but we closed it out. The league is going to be tough this year."
Despite trailing by as many as 14 in the second half, Penn State (8-5 0-1) made it a game, going on an 20-10 run that cut the lead to two after junior Jermaine Marshall (game-high 19 points) knocked down a jumper with 2:52 left.
Wisconsin (10-4, 1-0) never trailed in the second half, but never felt comfortable until Berggren slammed the door. Clinging to a 54-51 lead with 1:15 to go, Brust found Berggren open at the free throw line. Berggren spun away from his defender and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk to put the Badgers up 56-51 with 1:06 to go. "He's like the hulk, he just doesn't turn green," senior Mike Bruesewitz said of Berggren's aggressive dunk. "It's pretty scary."
The dunk gave the Badgers the momentum they needed to finish, as Bruesewitz hit all four of his free throws in the final minute to seal the win. Until that point, UW was shooting only 9-for-22 from the line. Wisconsin shot 50 percent and is shooting 63 percent from the free throw line on the year.
"It's a mental thing that has to be overcome," Ryan said.
Wisconsin survived by shooting 38.6 percent from the floor and 3-for-17 from three-point range by playing stronger defense. Wisconsin forced 15 turnovers that resulted in 17 points. UW also turned the ball over only four times, including just once in the first half.
"That's how we practice; we do a lot of passing drills, a lot of ball handling drills," said Ryan. "Taking care of the ball is something very easily to convince players in our program, because of our track record with it. So the new guys coming in they knew that. They value the basketball in practice, because each possession counts.
"I certainly like the way the guys, in their minds, have convinced themselves that taking care of the ball, not making bad plays, making good plays [is] the way the game should be played. It gives you a chance. If we didn't do that tonight we don't have a chance."
The Badgers got double digit points from four of their five starters and improved to 10-1 when it has three or more players score in double digits.
Berggren was efficient inside for the Badgers, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, but he only brought down three rebounds, while Evans shot 6-for-15 with 13 points and nine rebounds. Evans struggled at the free-throw line again, (1-for-6) and is now at 38 percent on the year. Brust and Bruesewitz added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
"Bruesewitz, I love that kid, he's a beast," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "Berggren is a handful. He makes you take tough shots at the defensive end on the floor."
The loss was Penn State's 16th straight against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center and its 16th in its last 18 meetings against the Badgers.
Playing without their top point-guard, Tim Frazier, because of a season-ending Achilles injury, his replacement, sophomore D.J. Newbill, scored 12 points on 6-for-15 shooting, most of those points coming from strong drives to the basket.
Frazier's injury is similar to the Badgers biggest point of emphasis moving forward; the play from their guards. Brust, Traevon Jackson and George Marshall only turned the ball over four combined times combined, which is something Ryan said they are improving on. "The aggressiveness, I really was [impressed]," Ryan said. "We struggled a little bit at guard making some decisions there, so the front-court bailed us out. For most years that I've been here it's been the other way around.
"So that's what we said before, we've got to get tested in games like these."