It was a tale of two halves for Wisconsin’s offense against Penn State. After shooting 39.3 percent (11-for-28) from the field in the first half, the Badgers used a quick start to the second half, hitting five of their first six shots, to bump a three-point halftime lead quickly into double digits.
Thanks to Wisconsin’s strong second-half shooting, the Badgers finished the game 26-for-55 (47.3 percent) from the field. Putting three players in double figures, Bronson Koenig led Wisconsin with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field. Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ finished the game with 16 and 14 points, respectively, as Brown delivered a season-high by going 6-for-8 from the field (2-for-4 from three).
Wisconsin got off to a strong start after halftime thanks to getting the ball i, seeing its first two made field goals come from Happ doing low-post work. Overall Wisconsin finished the game with 28 points in the lane. The Badgers only scored 12 points in the paint in the first half but that was due to the fact that Wisconsin’s frontcourt drew a pair of fouls against five different Penn State players. That consistent contact helped the Badgers go 21-for-29 from the free-throw line, encouraging considering the team struggles from the line this year. Happ and Nigel Hayes (nine points) led Wisconsin in free throw attempts, both going 4-for-8.
The foul trouble hurt Penn State from keeping Wisconsin off the offensive glass. The Badgers had 14 offensive rebounds that turned into 18 second-chance points, and Hayes (eight, one OR), Happ (eight, two OR) and Brown (six, three OR) all were able to crash the glass. Overall Wisconsin won the rebounding battle 39-25.
Although Wisconsin used a strong second half to pull away, the Badgers did get careless with the basketball at times. Wisconsin committed 11 turnovers, which Penn State cashed into eight points. Three different players for Wisconsin committed at least two turnovers, as Happ led the team with four.
Like the offense, it was two different stories for the defense. Penn State entered the game shooting 38.7 percent from the field over Big Ten play, but the Nittany Lions came out firing and connected on 52.2 percent (12-for-23) from the field, including 6-for-10 from three, over the first 20 minutes. After some defensive adjustments by Wisconsin, Penn State’s shooting came back down to earth, only shooting 26.9 percent (7-for-26) from the field in the second half.
In particular Wisconsin prevented Shep Garner from having consistent success. Garner registered nine points in the first half on three 3-pointers but was held scoreless in the second half on three attempts. Overall Penn State finished 19-for-49 (38.8 percent) from the field and 9-for-18 from three. Tony Carr and Payton Banks each scored 12 points to led Penn State on a combined 8-for-19 scoring from the field.
Struggling to shoot wasn’t the only issue Penn State’s offense had, as Wisconsin forced 17 turnovers into 17 points. Four different players committed multiple turnovers with Josh Reaves committing a team-high five.
The turnovers by Penn State at times was sloppy play but other times Wisconsin was successful at poking the ball loose. Four different players registered a total of seven steals for Wisconsin, as Happ (four steals) was consistently active defending the low block.
Penn State’s frontcourt dealing with foul trouble gave the Nittany Lions little success against UW’s experience forwards. Penn State finished with a season-low 10 points in the paint and managed only nine second-chance points off seven offensive rebounds. Wisconsin was able to consistently win the loose balls to prevent Penn State from stringing together successful offensive possessions in the second half.
Wisconsin’s offensive struggles in the first half continued for a third straight game, but the Badgers needed less than three minutes to build a double-digit lead in the second half that rarely shrunk.
Whether it was scoring or defense, Wisconsin received contributions from a number of players in the second half. In particular the bench stepped up after only registering two points in the first 20 minutes, scoring 14 of Wisconsin’s 46 second half points.
D'Mitrik Trice led the way with seven points (five from the free throw line) and Khalil Iverson put together a couple of strong possessions on both ends of the court in the second half. Iverson’s first impressive play came off of an inbounds pass from Koenig, as the senior found him for an alley-oop dunk to give Wisconsin a 16-point lead. Two possessions later Iverson came up with a steal against Reaves that led to a transition layup by Trice.
On the ensuing offensive possession, Trice won a loose ball situation and located an open Iverson standing behind the 3-point line. Iverson was able to simply catch and shoot to make his second 3-pointer of the season.
Despite the strong shooting in the second half, the Badgers did suffer through a first half scoring drought that lasted four minutes, 57 seconds. After a jumper by Koenig, Wisconsin went 0-for-5 from the field, which allowed Penn State to stay within striking distance. Wisconsin’s offense never lost the lead lf out by getting to the free throw line over that stretch by shooting 4-for-6.
Game MVP: Bronson Koenig. Coming out hunting for his shot, Koenig shot above 50 percent from the field in both halves. In particular Koenig was generating his looks from three and finished 4-for-9 from behind the arc. It marked Koenig’s eighth game this year where he has hit at least four 3-pointers and his seventh 20-point game of the season. Due to Koenig’s strong performance, the senior only had to play 29 minutes and finished with three rebounds, three assists and two turnovers.