Mark Brennan

No.15 Wisconsin looks to make it nine straight wins over Penn State when the teams meet in Madison tonight

After a physical overtime win at Minnesota Saturday, No.15 Wisconsin looks to overcome a short turnaround when it hosts a physical Penn State team tonight. BadgerNation breaks down the match-up.

Penn State (11-9, 3-4 Big Ten) vs. No.15 Wisconsin (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten)

Date/Time – Tuesday, January 24, 8:06 p.m. central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)

Television – Big Ten Network (Brian Anderson and Seth Davis)

Radio –Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 34-10 (Wisconsin leads 18-2 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 66-60, on January 21, 2016, in State College, PA

WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS

3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 8.0 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.9 ppg)

22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 13.6 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 14.3 ppg)

30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 7.6 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

0 D'Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 6.1 ppg)

15 Charles Thomas (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 3.0 ppg)

21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 4.5 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

This week's Co-Big Ten Player of the Week, Happ had a dominant performance at Minnesota, becoming the first major conference player since 2003 with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks.

PENN STATE PROBABLE STARTERS

10 Tony Carr (6-3 Freshman Guard, 11.4 ppg)

11 Lamar Stevens (6-7 Freshman Forward, 11.6 ppg)

23 Josh Reaves (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 8.5 ppg)

24 Mike Watkins (6-9 Freshman Center, 9.8 ppg)

33 Shep Garner (6-2 Junior Guard, 12.4 ppg)

OFF THE BENCH

0 Payton Banks (6-6 Junior Forward, 10.8 ppg)

5 Terrence Samuel (6-3 Junior Guard, 4.2 ppg)

44 Julian Moore (6-10 Junior Center, 2.8 ppg)

PLAYER TO WATCH

Averaging 10.0 ppg in Big Ten play with team-high 19 assists and 17 steals, Stevens leads the conference in total steals (38), despite only playing in 15 games.

LAST TIME OUT

MINNEAPOLIS – When the final horn sounded and Akeem Springs’ off-balanced 3-point shot didn’t drop after teasing the bottom of the net, Wisconsin sophomore Ethan Happ collapsed to the floor.

After the stat line he put it, it was one of Happ’s first breaks all afternoon and a combination of elation and exhaustion.

One of the big difference makers in a gritty gut check, Happ scored a career-high 28 points – 22 in the second half – to help No.17 Wisconsin starve off Minnesota, 78-76, in overtime Saturday at Williams Arena.

Senior Nigel Hayes added 21 points and paced things early for the Badgers, which moved back into a first-place tie with Maryland after dispatching the Gophers (15-4, 3-4) for a sixth straight time.

Senior Bronson Koenig was held in check early but hit two big 3-pointers that proved to be the difference in a game that featured 18 ties and 17 lead changes.

Held to only five points in the first half, Happ showed a ferociousness attacking the rim that sparked Wisconsin’s offense. He scored 14 straight points at one point and helped UW have a 44-24 edge in the paint.

In addition to adding 12 rebounds, six assists, five blocks, one steal, one turnover and only two fouls, Happ nearly drew all five fouls against Minnesota forward Reggie Lynch and regained his rhythm from the free throw line by going 6-for-9 and hit a critical one with 12.9 seconds left in overtime.

Happ couldn’t do it alone, however, and got a big lift from the team’s two senior leaders.

Koenig was bottled up and prevented from getting clean looks for the second straight game. Having a penchant for hitting the big shot, Koenig lost the handle going up for a shot that could have won the game in overtime.

He made up for it in the extra session by scoring six of his 11 points, including a 3-pointer off a double screen with 38.7 seconds left that put the Badgers up 77-76.

“The kid keeps making shots,” Gard said of Koenig. “He’s a crunch time shot maker.”

Playing a game-high 42 minutes, Hayes scored 13 of his 21 points in the opening half to help the Badgers slog through another poor shooting first half. Outside Hayes no player contribute more than five points and the Badgers managed only 13 buckets on 31 attempts against the conference’s top field-goal percentage defense.

Once Happ started getting into a rhythm, Wisconsin’s shooting percentage skyrocketed up to 58.3 percent in the second half before finishing at 50 percent 31-for-62.

Amir Coffey scored 19 points and Springs added 16 for the Gophers, who lost their third straight. Springs hit a 3-pointer with 12 second left in regulation that ended a 5:13 scoreless drought and a 5-0 Badgers run to force overtime. He wasn’t so lucky with his off-balanced shot for the win.

SERIES NOTES

This marks the only regular-season meeting between UW and Penn State.

The Badgers have won the last eight meetings with the Nittany Lions and won 21 of the last 23 against overall. Penn State’s last win over the Badgers came in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament.

The Badgers have won 17 straight home games against Penn State, including a perfect 14-0 record at the Kohl Center. The Lions’ last win in Madison was a 78-67 win at the UW Field House on Jan. 26, 1995.

UW has won 21 straight games vs. PSU when scoring at least 60 points. The Badgers’ last loss to PSU when scoring at least 60 was a 76-61 setback in 2000 under head coach Dick Bennett.

LAST MEETING

STATE COLLEGE, PA – After registering its biggest win of the season, Wisconsin almost let a tricky road test spoil its momentum.

In a historically tough arena for the program, the Badgers jumped out to a quick double digit lead and held it for the majority of the game until the final minutes in a 66-60 victory over Penn State at Bryce Jordan Arena.

Freshman Ethan Happ registered a career-high 20 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season for Wisconsin (11-9, 3-4 Big Ten), which led by double digits for the first 15+minutes of the second half to extend its winning streak over Penn State (11-9, 2-5) to eight.

In the last five trips to Penn State, Wisconsin had gone 4-1 in games separated by 5.2 points per contest. Even last year’s Badgers team, the one that was the most efficient offense in the history of the N.C.A.A., struggled to an eight-point win on 39.2 percent shooting.

So with UW cruising out to a 17-point lead with 7:10 to go, a lead the Badgers built by touching the post and playing inside out, Gard knew better, even though UW notched 13 offensive rebounds and outscored Penn State, 24-12 in the paint.

UW’s young team got away from the post touches down the stretch, a problem compounded when Penn State started hitting shots and went on a 15-3 run. After trailing by double digits for 14 minutes, 53 seconds of the second half, Penn State cut the lead to 52-47 with 3:16 remaining.

But Nigel Hayes – who was 3-for-11 at the time – hit a huge 3-pointer to boost the lead back to eight, giving the Badgers their first field goal in 5:38. In the final 2:50, Hayes scored seven of his 15 points.

And while Penn State did cut the lead to three with 30 seconds remaining, the Badgers – who went 2-for-10 from the field the final 8:12 – went 8-for-12 from the line in their final six possessions to preserve the lead.

WISCONSIN NOTES

Wisconsin has won 21 straight games vs. unranked opponents, dating back to Jan. 12, 2016.

Wisconsin is averaging 76.4 ppg (fourth in Big Ten) and shooting 48.0 percent from the field (third in Big Ten). KenPom.com ranks the Badgers 18th in NCAA in offensive efficiency.

Hayes leads the Badgers averaging 3.1 assists per game and ranks 11th in the Big Ten with a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio (59 assists, 32 turnovers).

Over the last two seasons, Koenig has gone 27-for-49 (.551) from 3-point range in the final 5:00 and overtime of games. This season, he is 10-for-18 (.556) from long range during crunch time.

PENN STATE NOTES

Three Penn State freshmen are among the top five scorers and are each of top three rebounders. The Nittany Lions have no seniors on the roster.

Head coach Patrick Chambers has used five different starting lineup combinations this season with eight different players seeing at least one start. Freshmen Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens are the only players to start in all 20 games to date.

Penn State is 8-0 when keeping its opponents below 70 points. The opposition averages 61.6 points in the 11 games won by the Nittany Lions with a plus-13.3 PSU scoring margin.

Banks is in the Top 4 in the Big Ten in total 3-pointers (52), 3-point percentage (38.5) and 3-pointers per game (2.6). Nearly 70 percent of Banks' field goals this season (52-75) are from behind the arc. 

PREDICTION

Wisconsin has won 12 of the last 13 games and is out-scoring foes by 18.3 ppg (79.5 to 61.2) during that stretch. There’s no question though that the last week toughen the Badgers for the final 12 games of the conference schedule. Scratching out a four-point victory at home against Michigan in a game the Badgers didn’t play well is one thing, but winning in overtime on the road against a good team with a week off is another.

“It’s helped us grow, calloused us a little bit,” head coach Greg Gard said of last week.

One of the biggest challenges for Wisconsin is how it can handle a quick turnaround. Not only has the team only had two days off before hitting the court again tonight, the Badgers are recouping from an overtime game in which four of their starters played at least 36 minutes (Hayes played 42 of the 45 minutes and the only starter who didn’t hit 30 minutes – Brown (17) – is recovering from a knee injury).

UW has a veteran group and Gard said the team took precautions Sunday by resting the starters, limiting the contact possessions and doing a short scrimmage with the reserves.

The Badgers certainly aren’t in need of reps, as their 17-man roster has an average of 2.08 years of “experience” according to Ken Pomeroy, tops in the country.

“That’s the nice thing about having that experience,” Gard said. “Maybe they don’t need as much (time) on the floor as the younger guys do.”

On the flip side, Penn State’s average experience is 1.07, which ranks 332nd nationally and 13th in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions will likely start three freshmen tonight – Philadelphia-area prospects Carr, Stevens and Watkins. They are young but certainly talented with impressive prep resumes. Throw in Garner being from Bo Ryan’s hometown of Chester and three other reserves being from Philly, it’s not a huge shock that the group plays tough and that arguably Penn State’s biggest win of the season came over Michigan State in a game played at the Palestra.

“The overall talent level is up,” Gard said. “They had some guys – Shep Garner – that had some experience from previous years. They’re playing better together. In the past they’ve always depended on one guy to get 25, 30 points. Now they almost have five guys averaging double figures. They’ve dispersed (the scoring) pretty well. They share the ball pretty well, (and) obviously still continue to play hard as they always have.”

The key tonight will be which team will be the most aggressive on the boards. Penn State is 7-1 on the season when outrebounding its opponent and have tallied more rebounds than its opponent in three of its last five games. Penn State has a plus-3.6 rebound margin in 11 games won, compared to a minus-6.2 spread in games lost. The Nittany Lions were only outrebounded by nine Saturday, but Purdue shot 56.6 percent in a 25-point win.

The Badgers are fifth in the nation with a plus-10.0 rebounding margin, rank fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (77.5 percent) and 17th in offensive rebounding percentage (36.9 percent).

UW and Penn State have played a large amount of tight games over recent history. In the 12 meetings since Wisconsin’s 17-point win in State College in 2010, only one game has been decided by more than 10 points. I’m going to buck the trend tonight. UW’s experience – especially in the low post – will be the difference between two games coming off short rest. The Badgers win by 14.

Worgull's Record: 17-2

Points off Prediction: 155 (8.2 per game)


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