The Nittany Lions scored 31 points off Badger miscues, 23 in a first half in which visiting UW committed 15 turnovers.
Forward Jess Brungo paced Penn State with 18 points, including 4 of 5 from beyond the 3-point arc. Junior guard Tanisha Wright, though, led the charge, scoring 17 and adding five assists. Big Ten scoring leader Kelly Mazzante added 15 and three steals and guard Jess Strom pitched in 10 points, six assists and six steals.
Wisconsin trailed by as many as 26 in the second half, but rattled off a 14-0 run to close within 60-50 with 2:41 left to play.
"With that never-say-die attitude, we showed our character, our courage and our commitment, and I am very proud of my team for playing the entire forty minutes," Badger coach Lisa Stone said.
Strom hit 6 of 6 free throws to cap the game's scoring.
"I am proud of my team," Stone said. "We did not quit when we could have very easily. Penn State is a tremendous basketball team with great players. To hold a team of this stature to no field goals over the last seven minutes of the game is pretty noteworthy for our defense."
The Badgers hit five of their first seven shots and trailed by just one early in the contest. Wisconsin, though, was done in by turnovers, including one with a chance to take the lead down 10-9. After a Penn State transition bucket, Jordan Wilson brought Wisconsin back within 12-11, but the Nittany Lions surged ahead with a 14-0 run and continued to dominate for the duration of the first half, an 8-0 run making it 38-19 late in the stanza.
Wisconsin turned it over four times in the first three minutes, helping Penn State set the tone of an up-tempo opening half. It did not hurt the Nittany Lions' cause that they hit 7 of 11 shots to open the game and shot 49 percent in the first half.
Emily Ashbaugh led the Badgers with 14 points and seven rebounds but also had seven turnovers. Sophomore guard Ashley Josephson added 10 points, including the 3-pointer that made it 60-50 late in the second half. She played 37 minutes Thursday, while backcourt mate junior Stephanie Rich logged all 40 and tallied seven points.
The Badgers played without starting center Lello Gebisa, who is recovering from a sprained right ankle, and reserve point guard Kandace Evans, who was serving a suspension for violating unspecified team rules.
In their stead, little-used sophomore forward Annie Nelson saw game action for only the seventh time this season and contributed a career-high four points in 15 minutes. She had scored six points all season prior to Wednesday. Sophomore guard Erin Olson played for only the 12th time this season and scored a season-high two points.
The loss was Wisconsin's sixth straight and dropped the team to 2-11 in the Big Ten, 8-15 overall. Penn State (12-1, 20-4) remained tied with Purdue (12-1, 22-2) for first place.
Score by half
Wisconsin - (Field goals-Free throws-Points) - Emily Ashbaugh (5-4-14), Ashley Josephson (4-0-10), Jordan Wilson (3-3-9), Stephanie Rich (2-1-7), Annie Nelson (2-0-4), Ebba Gebisa (2-0-4), Erin Olson (1-0-2). Totals: 19-8-50.
Penn State - (Field goals-Free throws-Points) - Jess Brungo (7-0-18), Tanisha Wright (8-1-17), Kelly Mazzante (6-2-15), Jess Strom (1-8-10), Amanda Brown (2-2-6). Totals: 24-13-66.
Three point goals - Wisconsin 4 (Rich, Josephson 2), Penn State 5 (Brungo 4, Mazzante).
Rebounds - Wisconsin 33 (Ashbaugh 7), Penn State 30 (Mazzante 7).
Assists - Wisconsin 13 (Wilson, Josephson 3), Penn State 16 (Strom 6) Turnovers - Wisconsin 24 (Ashbaugh 7), Penn State 13 (Mazzante 3).
Blocks - Wisconsin 2 (Ashbaugh, Nelson), Penn State 7 (Reicina Russell 4) Steals - Wisconsin 3 (Ashbaugh, Rich, Josephson), Penn State 14 (Strom 6) Fouls - Wisconsin 15, Penn State 12.
Points - in the paint: Wisconsin 18, Penn State 28 - Off turnovers: Wisconsin 15, Penn State 31 - Fast break: Wisconsin 4, Penn State 12 - Bench: Wisconsin 10, Penn State 6 - Second chance: Wisconsin 4, Penn State 10.