It looked like Wisconsin was going to build a quick double-digit lead by starting the game 8-for-10 from the field off of six assists in the first 6 minutes, 30 seconds. From that point on Penn State picked up the pressure and Wisconsin started settling for jump shots, resulting in a field goal drought of 9:38. UW got points by going 3-for-6 from the free throw line but were fortunate to see its 11-point lead only shrink to seven, as Penn State equally struggled putting the ball in the basket.
Senior Frank Kaminsky in particular helped Wisconsin build an early lead by scoring seven of UW’s first 17 points. But getting swarmed by Penn State defenders from that point forth, Kaminsky failed to make a field goal the rest of the first half. Overall Kaminsky finished with 16 points, which was second behind Sam Dekker’s career-high with 22 points, on 9-for-13 shooting from the field.
Dekker was able to find balance in each half, scoring 13 points in the first, nine in the second and played a critical role in scoring in a variety of ways to keep Penn State’s defense guessing. Nigel Hayes finished with nine points, six of which came in the second half, to complete a solid night for the forwards. It was needed because guards Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser combined for eight points on 3-for-15 shooting from the field (but only two turnovers). Overall Wisconsin finished 20-for-51 (39.2 percent) from the field.
Hayes was very good attacking the glass and consistently collecting offensive rebounds, finishing the game with five and, arguably, collected the biggest one of the game with 1:16 to go . The play resulted in Penn State having to foul and Kaminsky knocking down both of his free throws to make the lead nine with 48 seconds left. Hayes’ ability to clear out bodies and get the positioning in order to come up with rebounds gave Wisconsin another chance.
Wisconsin finished the game with nine offensive rebounds and converted its second chances into 10 points.
It was the D.J. Newbill show, as Wisconsin had no answer for the senior guard who scored 29 of Penn State’s 47 points. At times Gasser was able to play good defense, but Newbill was just able to come up with better offense to score in a variety of fashions, as he finished the game 13-for-21 in 39 minutes of work. The one area where Gasser did have success was when he did cut off the driving lane and force a 3-point attempt, an area where Newbill went 0-for-4.
Gasser wasn’t alone in struggling with Newbill. Switches off screens put Dekker and Hayes on him at times, as well as Zak Showalter coming off the bench for seven minutes and taking a crack at the conference’s leading scorer while Gasser sat with two first-half fouls.
Newbill was the only player for Penn State to reach double digits. In fact he was the only Penn State player to score in the first 14:46, as Newbill’s run of 12 straight to open the game ended when Brandon Taylor (7 points) hit a 3-pointer, which was assisted by Newbill. Only three other players scored for the Nittany Lions, who finished the game 21-for-54 (38.9 percent) from the field.
With Newbill carrying the offense, the Badgers couldn’t afford to give Penn State extra possessions. Hayes and Kaminsky each played critical roles by each registering eight defensive rebounds. Penn State finished the game with only four offensive rebounds, resulting in just two points.
Although turnover prone, Newbill coughed the ball just once in his 39 minutes of floor time, instead registering three of Penn State’s five assists. With good ball security from Newbill, Wisconsin didn’t have much success trying to force his teammates into turnovers, as Penn State finished with only six turnovers that turned into five UW points.
Wisconsin was lucky that the rest of the Penn State offense struggled or it may have been a different story. Wisconsin’s prolonged field-goal drought could have been costly if Penn State didn’t shoot 4-for-12 from the field over that same stretch. Although UW settled for some jump shots instead of touching the post, UW coach Bo Ryan was pleased his players kept their composure during that time frame, allowing them so stay patient and get to the free throw line.
Penn State did go to zone at times on defense, which caused the scoring drought, and UW misfired from the perimeter, only managing to go 5-for-22 (22.7 percent) from three in the game. The struggles from distance prevented Wisconsin from consistently getting the ball in the paint, as the Badgers were outscored 30-20 around the basket.
Despite his struggles, Kaminsky found a way to put together a solid stat line, as he was one rebound shy of his third straight double-double. He also finished the game with two assists, one steal and one of Wisconsin’s two blocks. While limited for a long stretch, Kaminsky stepped up to score six of Wisconsin’s final seven points in the last three minutes of the game to help ice it.
All five starters for Wisconsin logged at least 34 minutes of playing time, with Koenig leading the way with 39. The bench needs to be better, as they failed to score for a third game this season and finished 0-for-4 in a season-low 19 minutes. Although the bench did well at times in other areas, none of the three registered a rebound and only Brown and Showalter recorded an assist. If the bench is going to continue to struggle to score, they are going to need to be able to find different ways of contributing.
With Wisconsin’s size advantage, the Badgers were able to win the rebounding battle 37-28. Hayes led the way with a 13 rebounds and Kaminsky finished with nine. Even though Jordan Dickerson (two points) and Julian Moore (three points) can match up with the Badger frontcourt, Hayes and Kaminsky are too good of rebounders and it showed with them able to consistently win their matchups around the basket.
Game MVP: Sam Dekker. Needing someone to step up and carry the scoring load, Dekker led Wisconsin in scoring for the ninth time this season, scored in double figures for the 10th straight game and cracked 20 points for the second time in three games. With Penn State playing zone, Dekker was the lone player who found success driving to the basket and was the only UW player to hit multiple 3-pointers, finishing the game 3-for-6.
Dekker consistently found ways of attacking the basket and was rewarded by delivering a couple of impressive dunks or lay ups. If Dekker can continue to play with the same aggressive style of slashing to the basket and hitting mid-range-to-perimeter jumpers, he will become a very difficult player to guard and make UW’s offense even more explosive and challenging.