The offense looked out of sync for almost the entire game until a big run in the second half and once again in overtime. Penn State continually alternated between man-to-man defense and a 2-3 zone. The different looks appeared to frustrate the Badgers on offense, especially when Penn State stuck with their zone. Curiously, Penn State came out of their zone in the second half and the Badgers consequently went on a large run.
Wisconsin still is having trouble figuring out an effective way to break a zone without a true post presence. Neither Tim Jarmusz nor Keaton Nankivil is particularly good at finishing in the paint right now and working the baseline in the Badgers zone offense. As a result, the best way for the Badgers to break the zone is clearly dribble penetration. Today, Penn State focused on the Badgers attempts at dribble penetration and forced Wisconsin to play almost exclusively on the perimeter.
With Penn State collapsing on dribble penetration in the first half, Wisconsin relied entirely on outside shots and only got into the paint on a few drives by Trevon Hughes. Fortunately, Wisconsin came out and attacked the paint better in the second half and as a result got a number of good looks from beyond the arc. However, once again, the Badgers relied on their perimeter game to generate offense. The outside shots fell at a better clip in the second half but the offense still remains one dimensional. This may pose as a problem if more teams begin to play zone against the Badgers and Wisconsin does not actively attack the paint off the dribble from the start.
One player who may be able to effectively work the baseline is Ryan Evans; he has the tools to be an effective finisher around and under the basket but has been slowed by tentativeness, inexperience and turnovers. Nankivil has become a solid face-up player but does not appear comfortable with his back to the basket and working around the blocks.
Penn State's offense is entirely geared towards setting up Talor Battle for opportunities to look for his own shot and create for others. The Nittany Lions ran Battle off of multiple screens almost every time down the floor and relied on his hot first half shooting to jump out to an early lead. Wisconsin did a poor job of communicating on the screens and did not do a good job collectively defending Battle.
Additionally, the Badgers appeared to lack intensity and passion on the defensive end until the middle of the second half and once again at the end of the game. Wisconsin seemed to feed off of the crowd's energy and grabbed nearly every loose ball down the stretch. The energy and hustle shown by the Badgers towards the end of the game allowed Wisconsin to have an opportunity to pull out a come-from-behind victory and will be needed on a more consistent basis as conference play continues.
Bo Ryan and the Badgers came out flat and without a purpose on both offense and defense. The Badgers could not seem to figure out the Penn State zone defense and few first half adjustments were made as Ryan and the rest of the coaching staff watched as the Badgers hoisted three-point shot after three-point shot without many attempts to attack the basket.
Fortunately, Ryan and the Badgers clearly discussed the lack of dribble penetration at half time and Wisconsin came out much more aggressive in the second half. As a result, the Badgers were to get open shots in rhythm and also a few scoring opportunities in the paint as the Penn State zone was left to scramble as they attempted to cut off driving lanes.
On defense, Ryan made a subtle adjustment on Battle and had Hughes pick him up full court in the second half. This adjustment prevented Battle from getting into his comfort zone and the also ensured Battle would spend more energy early in the shot clock, hopefully limiting his effectiveness while running off of screens.
Lastly, Wisconsin played almost the entire second half with a lineup of Trevon Hughes, Jordan Taylor, Jason Bohannon, Rob Wilson and Keaton Nankivil. This lineup is obviously small but all of the players are able to handle the ball and attack the zone from either the perimeter or off the dribble. I would not be surprised to see this lineup more often, especially if teams continue to run zone defenses against the Badgers.
Game MVP: Jordan Taylor. Taylor struggled with his shot early on and appeared to force some shots from the perimeter ultimately resulting in a couple air balls. Despite the lack of success he was having from the field, Taylor remained confident and aggressive down the stretch and put the team on his shoulders at the end of the game. Taylor ended up scoring the last eight points of regulation for the Badgers and had 18 points in the last six minutes and 43 of the contest.
Similar to Hughes against Northwestern, Taylor remained confident and aggressive on offense despite his shot being off early and often in the game. This confidence and aggressiveness is one of the most important developments of this season and one of the biggest reasons this year's squad is outperforming the team from a year ago.
Last year, the Badgers seemed to lack a player who wanted the ball down the stretch and the team as a whole played tentative in close games. However, this year, both Hughes and Taylor have stepped up towards the end of close ball games and made it known that they will not shy away from the pressure of taking and making big time shots in the clutch.