Penn State's underwhelming start to the season continues as the Badgers from Wisconsin handle associate head coach Keith Urgo and the Nittany Lions 72-51.
In a battle between two pesky defensive teams, the game started off as expected; slow and sloppy. The Badgers struggled shooting the ball early, registering just 5 of their first 17 shot attempts. Turnovers were a major concern for the Nittany Lions early and often, coughing the ball up 8 times in the games first 10 minutes. Because of the turnovers, Penn State was outshot significantly with just 8 shots in the time it took the Badgers to put up 18.
Mike Watkins and the Nittany Lions did a fantastic job defending the preseason all Big Ten forward Ethan Happ in the early goings. Happ started the game just 2-10 from the field. The shots began to fall for Happ, however, and he entered the locker room with 10 points (5-15) at the half. What started as an early two-score deficit escalated quickly when Wisconsin went on an 8-0 run to bring their lead to 13 at 24-11. With the lead at 31-16, the Nittany Lions went on a little run of their own - led by who else, their leader Lamar Stevens. He scored 7 in a row for the Nits at one point. With the score at 31-16 Wisconsin, Myles Dread hit a three followed by a Stevens lay-in which brought the score down to 10. A swift driving layup by Rasir Bolton cut the deficit to 8, but a Brad Davison circus jump shot with 7 seconds left in the half sent the game to a 33-23 score at the half. Davison was perfect from 3 on the night (3-3) and scored 14 points (5-9) with 7 boards.
Penn State outshot the Badgers 43%-41% in the first half, but the eight extra turnovers proved to be the difference in the game's first 20 minutes. Nonetheless, they found themselves still in the ballgame.
The second half could not have started worse for Penn State. Wisconsin made 3 of their first 4 shot attempts, and 4 of their previous 5 including the Davison shot before the half. A 12-0 run by the Badgers ballooned the lead to 20, and the lead got stretched to 49-25 in what was ultimately an 18-2 run for Wisconsin. This would be the largest deficit the Nittany Lions saw all day.
Penn State halted the run with their best offensive play of the night, a thunderous jam by Josh Reaves in what was one of the few things for the home BJC crowd to cheer for. Reaves followed with a three in what was a 5-0 run of his own. Down 18 with under 12 minutes to go, Penn State cranked up their press in search for some steals and easy baskets to get themselves back in the game. Unfortunately for them, the Badgers did a fantastic job of making the most of their possessions all night, getting shots on all but 7 possessions all night. The Nittany Lions 16 turnovers proved costly, with their early turnovers leading to an early deficit that was never able to be overcome.
Ethan Happ finished the night with 20 points on 10-24 shooting. He also grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 4 assists. Sophomore guard Nate Reuvers was fantastic for Wisconsin, shooting an efficient 5-7 from the floor with 11 points.
Like we have seen all season, the Nittany Lions have struggled heavily finding an offensive weapon not named Stevens. Stevens was 9-18 with 22 points for the Lions, and at times #11 was the only player wearing white who could find the bottom of the basket. Freshman Myles Dread was second in scoring for Penn State with 9 on 3-7 shooting (all three point shots). The three-point line was a place where Penn State has really struggled all season, and tonight was no different. Penn State shot 4 of 20 from the arc, while Wisconsin made 8 of 16.
Penn State (7-8, 0-4) will look to get its first Big Ten victory of the season Thursday night when they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to face yet another ranked opponent. The matchup with the 24th-ranked Huskers will be the third game in what will be a five-game stretch of games against ranked opponents. Chambers will be back on the sideline for the Nittany Lions.