Wisconsin 64, Penn State 63: Late Comeback Falls Just Short

By Matthew Filipovits on December 4, 2017 at 10:47 pm
Dec 4, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Josh Reaves (23) drives the ball around Wisconsin Badgers forward Aleem Ford (2) during the first half at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

© Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

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  1st half 2nd half final
Penn STate 25 38 63
Wisconsin 31` 33 64

Penn State put together a comeback effort for the ages but Tony Carr's off-balance three with four seconds remaining clipped side iron and doomed the Nittany Lions to 64-63 defeat against a struggling Wisconsin team. For a game that looked out of reach at about the five-minute mark, Pat Chambers' team showed a lot of fight to cut into the Badgers' 17-point second-half lead, but the deficit proved too much to overcome. 

Wisconsin was able to get Penn State to play its style of basketball, slow and low-scoring. The Badgers held the Nittany Lions to 35.7 percent shooting from the floor over 40 minutes, including 2-14 behind the arc. That's a huge discrepancy from PSU's marksmanship in Iowa City, where the Lions hit over 50 percent of their looks. Wisconsin's young backcourt was also able to limit the live ball turnovers that have made Penn State's defense so effective this season - the Badgers surrendered only two fast break points, forcing a typically-plodding halfcourt offense to plod for much of the game.

Carr has been the Nittany Lions go-to guy this season and his disappointing performance showed just how valuable he is to this team. He ended the first half going 1-10 from the floor. The second half wasn't much better, as he still couldn't find his jumper and ended with 16 points on 22 shots. He'll certainly want another crack at his game-winning shot attempt.

Carr was by far not the only Nittany Lion to struggle today though. Offensively, only Mike Watkins was able to shoot over 45 percent and every starter except Josh Reaves had a pair of turnovers. The bench as a whole was a non-factor yet again, as they followed up a zero point performance as a group at Iowa with a one-point total outing today. 

If there was one bright spot on the day it was Mike Watkins. The center was clearly bigger and stronger than all of Wisconsin's bigs, Ethan Happ included, and he showed it to the tune of 22 points, eight boards, and seven blocks. The offensive probably should have run through him all night, as all he was the only one getting high quality looks consistently. Big Mike was a force on defense as usual and held Happ to 3-12 shooting. 

  Poss PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FTRate
Wisconsin 66 0.97 49.0% 25.0% 15.2% 36.5
Penn State 0.95 37.5% 26.3% 16.7% 44.6

Reaves sparked the comeback attempt with an insane block from behind that he followed up with a slam on the other end. When Reaves got them going, the entire team started playing with more confidence, most notably Shep Garner who put up 12 of his 13 points in the second period. 

 

There will be no moral victories here, however. This was a game Penn State needed to win and should have won at home against the worst Wisconsin team in some time. Time will tell if this loss dooms the Lions to an NIT bid or worse. The team has a short break to sit on this loss before they host George Washington on Saturday in what should be a bounce back game.


Quotables:

Pat Chambers on his bench production: "We definitely need more from the bench. Our bench needs to help us out and you do that by earning it in practice starting on Wednesday and then against George Washington on Saturday."

Shep Garner on his team's comeback attempt: "We're a team that never gives up. We always preach one possession at a time and we focus on the possession that we're in whether it's offense or defense."

Shep Garner on what he learned about this time in Big Ten play: "Every possession counts. For our time we have to keep preaching and keep saying it. Everything is important, every detail is important. That's what the Big Ten is. It's big time basketball and we have to prepare that way."

Chambers on Tony Carr's final shot: "He's a heck of a player and he makes really good decisions. So I'm going to trust his decision."

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