Badgers Start the Party Early

No.4 Wisconsin dropped the ball (and the hammer) early on upset-minded Penn State, shooting a season-high 63.8 percent (30-47) from the field, including 70.0 percent (14-20) in the second half, in a 89-72 victory in the conference opener on New Year's Eve.

MADISON — A day after Big Ten Conference play opened with three road teams notching victories, Penn State thought the time was right for the program’s first victory in Madison since the Clinton Administration.

And on paper, one could be excused if he or she thought the Nittany Lions had finally ended their long run of futility at the Kohl Center, where they had never won a game. Penn State shot 53 percent from the field and knocked down 5 of 12 3-pointers, all led by a 29-point effort from senior guard D.J. Newbill.

But there would be no upset Wednesday.

As good as Penn State was on offense, the Badgers were even better, shooting a season-high 64 percent — including 70 percent in the second half — to cruise to a 89-72 victory in front of an announced — and frequently hushed — crowd of 17,279.

“We had to shoot well to get this one,” said Badgers coach Bo Ryan, whose team has opened conference play with a victory for the 12th consecutive year.

Nigel Hayes led the way with 21 points. He, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker each made seven shots from the field. Dekker finished with 17 points Kaminsky added 18, while pulling down 14 rebounds for his league-leading sixth double-double of the season.

Wisconsin (13-1) also got 16 points from point guard Traevon Jackson, who knocked down both of his 3-point attempts and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line, where Wisconsin went 23 of 28 for the day.

“That’s four guys with pretty good numbers,” said Dekker. “It’s good to see from us that we weren’t just going to one guy. More than one stepped up and that’s the thing about this team that I’ve said from day one, we have more than one guy that can control the offensive end.”

Those free throws turned out to be a difference maker for Penn State (12-2), which made just 12 trips on the day and only three in the first half.

“We ran into a buzzsaw today,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “They’re really good. You take one thing away, they go to the next thing; you take that away, they go to their third option and if you take that away, they go to the fourth.”

The Badgers improved to 32-10 all-time against Penn State, which joined the league in 1991 but hasn’t won in Madison since Jan. 26, 1995. The Nittany Lions have lost 16 in a row in Madison and are now 0-14 at the Kohl Center, which opened in 1998.

Overall, Wisconsin has won six in a row and 19 of the last 21 meetings with Penn State.

Dekker stays hot: With 17 points Wednesday, Dekker is averaging just over 15 points in his last five games. He hit 7 of 10 shots to improve his shooting percentage to .528 on the season.

Up next: The Badgers travel to Evanston, Ill. Sunday to face Northwestern. Wisconsin has taken six consecutive road games against the Wildcats. The game tips at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.

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