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Wisconsin basketball: Penn State recap

The Badgers go on the road and claim another victory over a ranked opponent. This team, and conference, is wild as hell!

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

After faltering down the stretch against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Wednesday, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (9-6 overall, 2-2 B1G) was back in action Saturday against the Penn State Nittany Lions (12-3 overall, 2-2 B1G).

The Nittany Lions entered the game a perfect 9-0 at home this season in large part because of the stellar play of Lamar Stevens and Myreon Jones. During the Saturday matinee, Wisconsin was able to stifle Jones and the Penn State offense to the tune of a season low 49 points on their way to a nine-point victory.

In the first few minutes of the game, neither team could do much offensively. Micah Potter would finally put points on the board, but that wasn’t until after five minutes had gone by. Potter would come out the gates firing from the bench, scoring the first 12 points for the Badgers to take a 12-7 lead halfway through the first half.

Potter would not let up, as he continued to score at will. Kobe King, Tyler Wahl and Brevin Pritzl would help the junior big man out though and get into the scoring action as well in the first half. Due to some tremendous defense, Wisconsin went into the half with a nine point lead.

In the early stages of the second half, Wisconsin was able to build on the strong play in the first half to grow the lead to 12 points with under 16 minutes to play after four straight points by Brad Davison.

After some sloppy offense by Wisconsin, Penn State was able to respond in a big way to cut the lead to only four points at the midway mark in the first half. Wisconsin would find a counter-punch though and reassert themselves to extend the lead to 11 with 6:30 to play thanks to Nate Reuvers getting involved in the game, and some big shots by King and Davison.

Down the stretch, Wisconsin flipped the script and held off the Nittany Lions thanks to some timely shooting by King and Trevor Anderson. Wisconsin used an odd combination for the final three minutes with Brad Davison, Kobe King, Trevor Anderson, Tyler Wahl, and Micah Potter in to ice the game, but it worked to perfection.

Notable stat lines:

  • Micah Potter —> 24 points (9-of-14 from the floor), 13 rebounds, two blocks
  • Brad Davison —> 11 points (3-of-12 from the floor), 13 rebounds, one assist, two steals
  • Kobe King —> 10 points (5-of-11 from the floor), two rebounds, four assists, one block
  • Lamar Stevens (Penn State) —> 19 points (7-of-17 from the floor), 13 rebounds, two assists, two blocks

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Defensive intensity

After giving up 70 points for only the third time this season against Illinois, the Wisconsin defensive intensity was back against the Nittany Lions. The Badgers did an excellent job of dictating the tempo and style of play in the game because of their defensive effort, and it paid dividends in the first half as Penn State was held to only 22 points on 8-29 shooting and six turnovers.

For the game, Wisconsin surrendered only 49 points, a season low for Penn State offensively. Add in 10 turnovers by Penn State, and nine offensive boards by the Badgers, and the recipe for success was back in play for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has yet to really shoot the ball well this season, but in the games that they play well defensively, they win. The Badgers will need to keep the defensive excellence going to have a chance for the NCAA tournament.

No. 2: One-two punch

While Nate Reuvers has led the team in scoring for the majority of the season, it was his replacement Micah Potter who set the tone early. After putting together his best game of the season against Illinois with 13 points in only 15 minutes, Potter’s role grew significantly against Penn State.

Potter was absolutely cold blooded in the first half with a career high 18 points with eight rebounds. The combination of Potter and Reuvers will undoubtedly help the Badgers moving forward, as their presence on the inside has been exceptional. If Potter continues to play this well one has to imagine that he may see an expanded role as the season progresses.

While Reuvers was fairly quiet in this game, he has still been Wisconsin’s most dependable scorer this season at over 15 points per game. In an ideal world the Greg Gard and the coaching staff would find a way to get both Reuvers and Potter on the court together more.

No. 3: Restart

After a letdown loss to Illinois at home, the victory over the No. 20 ranked team in the country is a big confidence builder for this team. Wisconsin is in the midst of a crucial stretch in conference play with games against three consecutive ranked opponents. The Badgers were able to win the first game of the trio. A win over either No. 12 Maryland or No. 8 Michigan State would go a long way in bolstering their resume for the postseason.

If Wisconsin wants to have a chance against either of the top two teams in the conference, the defensive mindedness from the Penn State game will need to be continued.

Up next: Wisconsin will welcome Maryland to the Kohl Center on Tuesday, January 12 at 8 p.m. CST. The game can be seen on ESPN.