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Wisconsin men’s basketball: Penn State recap

Badgers drop first game of Penn State double dip, 81-71.

Wisconsin v Penn State Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Coming off of a confidence building win on the road against Maryland earlier in the week, the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (13-5 overall, 7-4 Big Ten) was back on the road Saturday afternoon for a date with the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The Badgers entered the game as slight favorites, in the first of two matchups slated to happen between the two teams in under a week due to a schedule shift earlier in the season due to COVID-19 complications with the Penn State program.

In a game highlighted by turnovers and a poor defensive effort by the Badgers, it was the Nittany Lions who earned the 10-point victory, 81-71.

In the opening moments of the game, both teams were able to get things going on the offensive end fairly quickly. At the first media timeout things were all even at seven points, as Tyler Wahl had four early points to spearhead the attack.

The two squads continued to go back and forth throughout the first half as neither team could get a stop on the defensive end. Wisconsin held a narrow one point lead with 6:30 seconds left in the half behind 10 points by Wahl and nine more by Nate Reuvers.

The same trend continued, despite the Badgers having opportunities to extend their lead, as Penn State kept things tight over the next three minutes of the game.

To conclude the first half, Wisconsin was able create a little distance thanks to a pair of free throws by D’Mitrik Trice with seconds remaining to take a three-point lead into the half.

Penn State scored the first five points coming out of the break, and were able to take a one-point lead into the first media timeout behind some great play by Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington.

That guard tandem for the Nittany Lions kept things going after that stop in play, as the advantage rose to six with a little over 11 minutes to play, and rose to seven with 5:30 left in the game.

Over the course of the final five minutes Penn State was able to shut the door on the Badgers, and secure their first win in the rivalry since 2011.

Notable stat lines:

  • Tyler Wahl —> 13 points (6-of-10 from the floor), 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks
  • Nate Reuvers —> 18 points (7-of-12 from the floor), five rebounds, one block
  • Myreon Jones (PSU) —> 20 points (8-of-12 from the floor), five rebounds, one assists
  • Izaiah Brockington (PSU) —> 18 points (8-of-15 from the floor), nine rebounds, three assists

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Pace of play

In the first half there were very few whistles, which allowed the two teams get into a flow early. While the scoring output for each team was not anything out of the ordinary, the pace of the game was enjoyable to see, as Wisconsin and Penn State were willing to push tempo at times and were also efficient on offense.

The pace clearly was in favor of the Nittany Lions, however the Badgers benefited as well in the first half with some easy baskets in fast break situations, despite only shooting 30.8% from three.

Penn State was able to dictate and control the tempo in the second half, and that quickly resulted in over 60% shooting during the first eight minutes of the half to give them momentum at home. They were exceptionally good at taking advantage of Wisconsin’s season high 12 turnovers, and took control of the game in the second half.

Wisconsin went into the game knowing that they had to limit turnovers, but nonetheless the aggressiveness and tempo that Penn State played with proved to play a huge role in how the game transpired.

No. 2: Forward play

The story of the first half was the stellar play of Tyler Wahl. The sophomore forward was all over the court and affected the game on both ends of the floor. Wahl played phenomenally with 13 points and seven rebounds, and he was aggressive with the ball in his hands. He was active in grabbing loose balls, and demonstrated his ability to score inside and from three as well. Wahl was unable to contribute much in the second half, however, and finished with a double-double after scoring zero points and grabbing three rebounds in the final 20 minutes.

After recording 23 points and his third double-double of the season against Maryland earlier in the week, Micah Potter struggled against Penn State. He missed extended time in the first half with two fouls, and did very little in the second half as well (he finished with only four points). Potter’s absence led to ample playing time for Nate Reuvers, and the senior forward played one of his best games of the season with 18 points and five rebounds.

All three players are crucial members of the team and while it was great to see improved play by Nate Reuvers, and some strong play in the first half by Tyler Wahl, not having Micah Potter involved definitely hampered the team.

No. 3: Second half defense

I could copy and paste this third point from multiple games recaps this season. Wisconsin has a second half issue.

Penn State was able to score nearly at will in the second half, as the defensive effort by the Badgers was not nearly as strong as it was in the first 20-minute period.

Missing open looks on offense clearly has been an issue for the Badgers as well at times, but allowing a team under .500 in your league shoot over 50% in the second half is unacceptable.

In the end, Penn State outplayed Wisconsin in the second half, and the second half issues continue to be a problem. This game was just another crushing example of that, as Wisconsin surrendered their most points on the season.

Up next: The Badgers will have a rematch with Penn State on Tuesday evening in Madison. Tip-time is set for 6 p.m. CST and the game can be seen on FS1.