The offense for Wisconsin was simply get the basketball into the post early and often in order to attack the paint. It was safe to say that plan was a success with Penn State going with a three guard lineup for most of the game, allowing the front court of Wisconsin to consistently exploit the mismatches during the game.
Nigel Hayes and Frank Kaminaky in particular had success down low, as the duo led Wisconsin in scoring with 21 and 18, respectively. Sam Dekker was third with 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting. With so much front court success, it helped Wisconsin register 36 points down low.
Wisconsin was able to consistently get lay ups or floaters, which led UW to its best shooting performance from the field this year (63.8 percent (30-for-47) from the field). UW shot above 50 percent in both halves, shot 59.3 percent in the first and 70 percent in the second.
It was evident of what Wisconsin wanted to do on offense, as four of the first six possessions ended with the basketball around the hoop. With the aggressive style it allowed Wisconsin to score the first eight points of the game. Wisconsin’s high shooting percentage didn’t allow many second-chance opportunities, only registering five offensive rebounds. Wisconsin still made the most of it with eight points off those chances.
The aggressive style paid off not only in getting easy points in the paint but it also allowed Wisconsin to find themselves at the free throw opportunity. Traevon Jackson who finished the game with 16 points, tied Hayes for most free throw attempts with six, but unlike Hayes who went 5-for-6 from the line, Jackson went a perfect 6-for-6. Overall the Badgers shot 23-for-28 (82.1 percent) from the free throw line.
Like the previous three matchups with Penn State, guard D.J. Newbill was able to find success against Wisconsin, as he led all scorers with 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting in 38 minutes of work. And while Newbill was consistent both halves (15 in the first, 14 in the second), the Badgers held Newbill to only three points in the first 15 minutes, 40 seconds of the second half.
In the second half Wisconsin became more aggressive at the point of attack in defending Newbill. Penn State tried to use screens in order to get Newbill open, which resulted either Hayes or Kaminsky defending him, but at times either of them were able to switch back with Josh Gasser on defense. When they couldn’t switch, Hayes and Kaminsky defended Newbill well and made sure he didn’t have a lot of room to drive the basketball.
Shep Garner scored 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field, and Geno Thorpe also scored 11 points off the bench for the Nittany Lions in 23 minutes of work. Overall Penn State shot 53.4 percent (29-for-54) from the field and 5-12 (41.7 percent) from three.
With Newbill handling the basketball for a majority of the game, the Badgers were able to force him into committing three of the nine Nittany Lions turnovers. Wisconsin was able to find a way to take advantage of the miscues by converting them into 16 points, which helped Wisconsin continue to build its lead.
It was a good way to start Big Ten play with four of UW’s five starters score in double figures. Josh Gasser was the only starter to not score in double digits but the senior still registered eight points on 2-for-3 shooting from the field.
Kaminsky getting the offense started eventually open other things for the Badgers offense as the game progressed. For example, it led to more open driving lanes and open shots for Wisconsin to take advantage of. Dekker, especially, became more aggressive in the second half by finding lanes to drive the basketball and complete a couple of dunks.
Kaminsky’s presence also helped open up space for Hayes, who was aggressive to begin the game around the basket and eventually starting hitting mid-range and perimeter shots once Penn State’s defense pushed him out of the paint. Hayes hit five twos, two threes and five free throws, taking advantage of whatever Penn State gave him.
Wisconsin was only able to register nine assists in the game, a number that’s skewed because the ball movement was fantastic by players consistently find the open man. The vision that Wisconsin showed against Penn State to find an open teammate or the best shot available was impressive.
The bench production (nine points) could have been better, as Duje Dukan led the way with six points, Bronson Koenig had two points and Zak Showalter had one. The bench play seemed to be a little sloppy at times or didn’t play to the level that it normally does. Dukan committed two turnovers and Koenig didn’t register an assist. Vitto Brown only played seven minutes and seemed unsure at times, trying to do too much at times and sometimes got himself in trouble by letting his man beat him.
Game MVP: Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky played at an All-American level against Penn State, as he was able to help get the offense started and help his teammates, especially Hayes, get the offense going. Kaminsky was very effective around the rim. Even if he was being guarded by multiple defenders, the senior was still able to find a way to get the shot to fall, registering his eighth consecutive double-digit scoring game (18 points on 7-for-13 from the field).
There was one play in particular play in the paint where you could tell Kaminsky was playing well when he was able to get Jordan Dickerson to go up and Kaminsky used a spin move to get around him for an easy layup.
Not only was Kaminsky aggressive on offense, but he was just as good on defense by consistently block out on defense to limit Penn State’s second-chance opportunities. Kaminsky’s 14 rebounds (12 defensive) is his second highest of the season and gives him his second consecutive double-double (sixth of the season).