So, coming off of its worst shooting performance of the season—one in which it could not connect from two feet or twenty—Wisconsin saw plenty of open looks from beyond the arc. When it was all said and done Wednesday night the Badgers had heaved up 34 from 3-point land against Penn State's zone defense, a team season-high and tied for a Big Ten season-high. The team had not attempted 30 since November of 2000.
Thirteen of them sailed through the bottom of the net, which was enough to tie a Kohl Center record. Eight of those 13 came in the first half as the Badgers shot 50 percent from both 3-point range and the field. Those eight 3-pointers were more than Wisconsin had made in any single half this season, and in all but four complete games.
Leading the charge in that half were Alando Tucker and Ray Nixon, who both dialed up 3 of 4 from long distance. Tucker had not made three 3-pointers in any one game this year and ultimately finished 4-for-7.
"We just like to take what teams give us," Tucker said. "There's no telling how Penn State prepared to play us. They might have watched the game before and thought they were going to force us to shoot the outside shot. But that's not going to happen often with a Wisconsin team. We're not going to have bad performances like that."
The Nittany Lions starting five featured no one listed over 6-foot-6, but Penn State still out-scored Wisconsin in the paint, 16-14, a product of UW's reliance on the triple. In an effort to make up for their height disadvantage, the visitors hung a bit closer to the lane. So with the right ball rotation the Badgers were often able to find the open man around the perimeter.
"We were just taking what they were giving us," Tucker added. "They were packing it in and we weren't forcing anything. We tried to work it in, get it down low, but at the same time kicking it back out and the shots were there. They looked good. And we can't be hesitant to take the shots."
Tucker made four of his first five triples on his way to a 6-for-12 night from the field, after enduring perhaps his worst shooting performance ever in Saturday's loss to North Dakota State.
Tucker finished a meager 2-for-18 against the Bison, including an 0 of 6 showing from 3-point land. Coach Bo Ryan said in a press conference this week after reviewing game film that he was not displeased with the shots his team took on Saturday but that they simply did not fall. Tucker agreed with that, and luckily for his team they fell early and often against Penn State.
"Offensively, we were having the same shots we had the past game," Tucker said. "Tonight they just went down and that's just how it has to be for us."
Ryan would be the first to say that offense is a see-saw that comes and goes in spurts, whether it be 3-point shooting or not. Penn State coach Ed DeChellis experienced an unpleasant ‘see' to the Bison's ‘saw' early Wednesday.
"Obviously they made up for the shooting the other night I guess," DeChellis said. "I don't know what they shot the first half—50 percent I guess. But I thought Wisconsin was on all cylinders the first half and really shot the ball well."
In the second half the Badgers went just 5-for-18 from the 3-point line. Point guard Kammron Taylor finally rattled a couple home after some frustrating spins around the inside of the rim that popped out earlier in the second half. Nixon cooled off in the second half, finishing 4 of 10. He was the first Badger to finish with double-digit attempts this season from behind the arc.
Luckily Wisconsin had built itself a healthy lead and the Nittany Lions were even more inept from deep, going 3-for-13 in the second frame. Taylor, who at one point was 7 of 32 from the field over a stretch dating back to the beginning of Saturday's game, simply said the team just needs to keep battling.
"You can say that we got cold but I think we had a big enough lead that we were fortunate," Taylor said. "We could miss shots like that. That's not something we want to continue to do. But we were still getting good looks. Shots were rolling in and out of the basket."
It might not be worth reading too much into the second half numbers due to the fact that Penn State never mounted any significant run at the Badger lead. Also, Ryan put a largely inexperienced lineup on the floor for the game's final minutes as Wisconsin had built up a 30-point advantage.
What was significant was the Badgers' confidence in firing nine of their first 12 field goals from 3-point range and 13 of their first 20. Coming off of a 4 of 27 3-point performance that says something about how Wisconsin simply moved past Saturday. After all, if they like the shots they are getting, they have to fall sometime.