No. 20 Penn State vs. Wisconsin Preview: Lions Need Some Home Juice to Take Down the Badgers

By Craig Fritz on January 11, 2020 at 12:15 pm
Wisconsin Badgers. We don't need no stinking badgers.
© Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
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Wisconsin Badgers
9-6 (2-2 Big Ten)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
2:15 p.m. ET – Saturday, Jan. 11
Bryce Jordan Center
University Park, PA
Watch Info: BTN | GAMETRACKER
KenPom Rank: 24
Read: Lions Ice Cold in Loss to Rutgers

Penn State returns to the Bryce Jordan Center for the first time in 2020 on Saturday afternoon. After opening the new year with a rousing victory over then-No. 23 Iowa in the Palestra one week ago, and falling to Rutgers in Piscataway on Tuesday, the Nittany Lions will host a suddenly surging Wisconsin club. The Badgers had won four straight before falling 71-70 at home to Illinois on Wednesday.

Projected Starters
Penn State Wisconsin
G Jamari Wheeler - 6'1" - Jr. G D'Mitrik Trice - 6'0" - RS Jr.
G Myles Dread - 6'4" - So. G Brad Davison - 6'4" - Jr.
G Myreon Jones - 6'3" - So. G Kobe King - 6'4" - RS So.
F Lamar Stevens - 6'8" - Sr. F Aleem Ford - 6'8" - RS Jr.
F Mike Watkins - 6'9" - RS Sr. F Nate Reuvers - 6'11" - Jr.

scouting report

Greg Gard's squad bears plenty of resemblance to your typical Badgers outfit. Balanced scoring, sharing the basketball, and sound defense. 

Forward Nate Reuvers leads the Badgers in scoring by nearly four points per game. He does most of his damage inside the three-point line but can knock them down from deep. He's also a tremendous rim protector, registering 34 blocks through 15 games.

Guard Kobe King attacks the basket as well as anyone in the conference, shooting over 50% from the field, while D'Mitrik Trice helps create some spacing. His 34% shooting from deep is best among Badger starters.

Brevin Pritzl is the real shooting threat off the bench. He plays similar minutes to the starters but is the only one to really live and die by the three. Also off the bench is Ohio State transfer, Micah Potter. He's appeared in just five games so far this season thanks to his eligibility waiver being denied to start the season, but the Badgers are 4-1 in those contests.

keys to the game

  • Defend the paint: Wisconsin is by means a terrible three-point shooting team, but they make most of their living inside the arc. Nate Ruevers is no Luka Garza, but the Badger's offense runs through him similar to the way Iowa does with Garza. Mike Watkins and John Harrar need to be on their A-game defensively and stay out of foul trouble to slow down the big man.
  • Knock down threes: Wisconsin is the worst team in the Big Ten at defending three-pointers, with teams shooting a whopping 35% from downtown against them. This is exactly the type of game where Myles Dread can break out of his season-opening slump. The Nittany Lions can run away in this one if they get their shots to fall.
  • Stay out of foul trouble: The Badgers are the best free-throw shooting team in the Big Ten, by a good-sized margin. With how often they attack the basket, they get to the line at a good clip. The Nittany Lions cannot afford to give away that many free baskets, so they'll need to stay disciplined on the defensive end.

prediction

For the Pat Chamers Penn State teams of the past, Tuesday's loss to Rutgers would have been the type of game to send the team into a spiral. This 2019-2020 squad is different, though. In fact, two of the team's arguable best performances this season have come following losses. After the heart-breaker against Ole Miss, the Lions responded with a 21-point win over Syracuse. After the beatdown handed down to them in Columbus, the team responded with a 7-point win over then-No. 4 Maryland.

This team has shown that it has the mental fortitude to bounce back after tough games, and I expect to see more of the same against the Badgers. Saturday's contest presents a nice opportunity for Watkins, Harrar, and Lamar Stevens to establish their presence inside the paint defensively, and for Dread, Myreon Jones, Curtis Jones, and Izaiah Brockington to get things going from deep.

As most Penn State-Wisconsin games are, I think it will be a close contest throughout, but the Lions pull away thanks to a late steal-and-slam and some Dread free-throw goodness.

Penn State 76, Wisconsin 65

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