MADISON, Wis.—Welcome home.
He could say that again.
Fresh off a 1-for-10 shooting performance beyond the 3-point arc in a road loss to Michigan, Harris displayed his feel for the Kohl Center time and again, hitting five 3-point shots and scoring 25 points in a 68-45 win over visiting Penn State.
"It feels better. Probably get more sleep tonight," Harris said. "We played well here—that has never been a problem for us—it was good to get back with the fans."
Three was the magic number for Harris. He hit four of his first five from beyond the arc, scoring 13 points in the first seven minutes and 15 seconds of the game, the fourth triple giving the Badgers a 19-4 advantage. Almost all of the junior guard's points came either on 3-pointers or old-fashioned 3-point plays. The exception came when he did it one better, converting a 4-point play five minutes into the first half.
Harris' and the Badgers' scoring came in bunches Wednesday against the Nittany Lions' zone defense, which flustered Wisconsin late in the first half and early in the second, allowing Penn State to pull within four at 30-26.
Wisconsin (18-6 overall, 9-4 Big Ten) built a 21-8 lead on junior forward Mike Wilkinson's jumper at the 11:25 mark in the first half, but scored only nine points in the fourteen minutes of clock time to follow. The Badgers were held scoreless over the final 4:37 of the first half as Penn State (9-15, 3-10) closed the frame with an 8-0 run to pull within 30-22. Junior forward Jan Jagla, who had a team-high 16 points, opened the run with a 3-pointer and closed it with a 3-point play.
Four points from Nittany Lion sophomore forward Aaron Johnson opened the second half, drawing Penn State within four, the closest the team had been since trailing 5-2 barely more than two minutes into the game.
Senior center Dave Mader, though, hit 1 of 2 free throws to break Wisconsin's scoring drought, Wilkinson knocked down a free throw line jumper and Harris converted one of three second-half 3-point plays, sparking an 18-2 outburst over five-and-a-half minutes that gave Wisconsin a 48-28 lead.
"We got within striking distance," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "We are the kind of team where when one thing goes bad, it just goes really, really bad and we can never get it back."
"The crowd got into it…Once you start going you just get on a roll," Wilkinson said. "You can just feel it and everyone was clicking on the same page on both ends of the court."
Harris scored six points in the run before Johnson temporarily slowed the route with a layup. Harris, though, contributed his final six points of the game on two more 3-point plays, part of a 10-2 run that made it 58-32.
"I think he can take a game over and make some big shots or make a big stop and get a steal," DeChellis said. "If there is a momentum swing he can be the swing the other way. That's a special player."
While Harris thrived, Penn State's freshmen backcourt of Ben Luber and Marlon Smith, struggled. Luber was held scoreless on four shots in 38 minutes. Smith scored 15 points in 40 minutes, but all 13 of his second-half points came in the final six minutes, after Wisconsin had built the 26-point lead.
"They have been playing 40 minutes for the whole season and I just think they are both just really tired and frustrated," DeChellis said. "When (the Badgers) made their stretch I don't think there was one thing that they did to Ben, I just think he just didn't play as well as he has played. That is a freshman playing on the road and unfortunately we've got nobody to stick in the game and to help."
Harris, Wisconsin too much for Nittany Lions - game story
Solving a riddle - Wisconsin cracks zone at home
Wisconsin's defense steps up - Badgers contain Jagla, Johnson
Photo gallery 1 - Matthew Kutz
Photo gallery 2 - Associated Press
Photo gallery 3 - Matthew Kutz