Penn State vs. No. 19 Wisconsin Preview: Roaring Lions Seeking First Ever Win at Kohl Center

By Matt Simco on March 2, 2019 at 7:00 am
Feb 18, 2019; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Ethan Happ (22) works the ball against Illinois forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili (15) during the first half at the Kohl Center.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

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Wisconsin Badgers
No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers
19-9 (11-6 Big Ten)
Roster / Schedule
1:00 p.m. ET - Saturday, March 2nd
Kohl Center
Madison, WI
Watch Info: BTN/BTN2Go I Gametracker
KenPom Rank: 19
Vegas Line: Wisconsin -7.5

From starting 0-10 to winning five out of seven, this season reminds us once again that Penn State's basketball program is just downright confusing. Penn State is pushing all the right buttons right now, and Pat Chambers and his Nittany Lions squad are coming off a fantastic February which saw them go 5-2 - including two ranked home victories against No. 6 Michigan and No. 17 Maryland. Their next test will be a difficult one, as they will be pursuing their first ranked road victory of the season on Saturday at 1:00 pm EST in Madison.

Lamar Stevens has been the best version of himself over the past month and change. Earlier on in the year, we saw a Stevens that tried to do too much, whether it be trying to beat a double team himself or forcing an outside shot. The forward has played with great poise and intelligence as of late, always doing the right thing with the ball. In addition, the contributions from Jamari Wheeler, Rasir Bolton, Myles Dread, and others in big spots have been instrumental in Penn State's transition from embarrassment to a formidable competitor.

Projected Starters
Penn State   Wisconsin
Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Soph. 1 D'Mitrik Trice - 6'0" - Soph.
Myles Dread - 6'4" - Fr. 2 Brad Davison - 6'3" - Soph.
Josh Reaves - 6'4" - Sr. 3 Khalil Iverson - 6'5" - Sr.
Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Jr. 4 Ethan Happ - 6'10" - Sr.
John Harrar - 6'8" - Soph. 5 Nate Reuvers - 6'11" - Soph.

Despite dropping their last game on the road in Bloomington, Wisconsin has been enjoying a solid bounce-back season after a rough 2018. The Badgers have won eight of their last eleven and are fifth in the Big Ten standings, fighting for the pivotal fourth seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Greg Gard's team is tough to beat at home, where they have won four out of their last five. This game will be especially hard for the Nittany Lions, who have never won in the Kohl Center since it opened in 1998.

Wisconsin is led by senior forward Ethan Happ, a phenomenal talent whose footwork and finishing ability make him one of the elite players in the B1G. Penn State will have to make sure they keep Happ in check in order to compete on the road. Promisingly, Penn State just came off a game against Maryland where they had success against two very talented forwards in Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith. While Fernando and Smith are future NBA talents with a better build and maybe more natural skills, Happ's intuition sets him apart. This will be a great challenge for Watkins and Harrar and will be one of the major keys to victory for Penn State.

In the first go-around with the Badgers, Lamar Stevens was the only productive player for the Nittany Lions, with 22 points on 9-18 shooting. He was the only Penn Stater to score in double digits as the rest of the team shot a combined 11-35, including 4-19 from three. Penn State will need Dread, Bolton, or Josh Reaves (if not two of them) to have solid offensive nights to lift Penn State to a win over a very good Wisconsin defense that ranks 11th in the country in raw points allowed per game at 61.8 and seventh in defensive efficiency (88.8 points per 100 possessions).

Prediction

This is a game that seemed nearly impossible for Penn State to win earlier in the year, but that is certainly not the case now. Penn State's freshmen have done a nice job developing, and the team seems to be meshing really well with each other as everybody's roles have become clear. Stevens, Dread, and Bolton will each put up 15 points or more, and Penn State will make it six out of eight with a big-time road victory in Madison. Penn State 76, Wisconsin 72.

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