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Wisconsin men’s basketball: Penn State recap, part II

The Badgers turned up the heat in the second half and ran away from the Nittany Lions to split the season series.

Penn State v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (14-5 overall, 8-4 B1G) was back in action on Tuesday evening with a chance to avenge a tough loss to Penn State from over the weekend. Wisconsin welcomed the Nittany Lions to the Kohl Center hoping to cure their defensive struggles and secure a much needed conference victory.

After losing by 10 in Happy Valley, the Badgers were far superior in the rematch, winning by 16 over the Nittany Lions, 72-56.

Going with the same starting lineup as the previous five games, the first 12 points all came from Wisconsin’s forwards, as they had a 12-9 advantage at the first media timeout.

A bevy of turnovers by both teams resulted in a sloppy handful of minutes, but Wisconsin held a seven point lead before a three minute scoring drought by the Badgers. and a quick 7-0 run by Penn State tightened things back up to only a one-point game in favor of Wisconsin with 3:47 remaining in the first half.

To round out the first half, the Badgers were once again able to push their lead back to as much as five, but Penn State would roar back to pull within two points at the half.

Known for struggling for most of the season in the opening minutes of the second half, Wisconsin jumped out with a quick 7-0 run in the first three minutes to establish a 40-31 lead with 17:30 to play in the game. That initial burst would only continue though, as Penn State struggled to muster anything on the offensive end due to the some great defense by the Badgers.

Wisconsin would add to their lead over the next 10 minutes to hold a 60-44 advantage at the 6:50 mark in the second half, as things began to snowball in favor of the Badgers. Within two minutes the lead would balloon to 21 for Wisconsin, and ultimately the Badgers were able to secure a big conference win at home 72-56.

Notable stat lines:

  • Jonathan Davis —> 17 points (6-of-7 from the floor), four rebounds, six turnovers
  • Brad Davison —> 13 points (3-of-10 from the floor), seven rebounds
  • Micah Potter —> 12 points (4-of-7 from the floor), eight rebounds, two assists
  • Myreon Jones (PSU) —> 14 points (6-of-15 from the floor), two rebounds

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Turnover trouble

After recording a season high 12 turnovers in each of the previous two games, the Badgers were extremely loose with the ball in the first half against Penn State Tuesday night with 11 turnovers in the first half alone. Despite shooting well from the field, and playing improved defense, turnovers were detrimental to team success.

Luckily for the Badgers, Penn State was not much better with seven turnovers of their own in the first half, but for a team that came into the game averaging a tad under nine turnovers a game, Wisconsin’s uncharacteristic performance was eye opening.

In the second half, Wisconsin was able to mitigate the damage and proceeded to turnover the ball five more times. While totaling 15 was still a season-high amount, they were able to limit Penn State’s ability to get out in transition and take advantage of those mistakes. On Saturday the Nittany Lions had 21 fast break points (primarily due to turnovers), but in the second matchup they had zero.

Wisconsin undoubtedly needs to clean up some things on offense to limit turnovers, but the second half was a much better effort overall.

No. 2: Back court bounce back

The first time these two teams met on Saturday, the Penn State back court absolutely outplayed D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison. Myreon Jones and Izaiah Brockington combined for 38 points, while Trice and Davison managed only 14 points on 5-of-20 shooting.

In the rematch, the Wisconsin guards played much better. Not only did Davison put up 13 points and seven rebounds, but freshman Jonathan Davis poured in a career-high 17 points including a balmy 4-of-4 from three. Trice did not do much in the scoring column, but he dished out six assists and added four rebounds. Reserve guard Trevor Anderson also added nine points and three assists off the bench to give the team a big boost.

As a group, the biggest area of growth though from the previous game was on the defensive end. Penn State’s guards were not as successful at getting past the Wisconsin guards and penetrating inside, and that resulted in a huge shift in points production.

One of the key statistics that had shown up the previous eight games had been the play of Davison. The senior shooting guards had only scored 10 or more points one time since Christmas (Wisconsin was only 4-4 during that span), and his strong game against Penn State was a big reason for the improved play all-around. If Davison and Jonathan Davis (needs to still limit turnovers) can string together more strong play over the remaining games in conference play it would be go a long way in helping the team produce more consistently.

No. 3: Second half start

At this point Wisconsin’s second half struggles have been well documented, especially in the opening minutes of the half.

Against Penn State, they flipped the script.

The Badgers were able to put together a 12-0 run coming out of the intermission, and then added a 6-0 run shortly thereafter to take a 15-point lead with 13:40 remaining in the game. During that stretch Wisconsin did some great things on the offensive end, but the difference was their defense. Penn State was unable to put anything together during that stretch on offense, and only scored four points in the first seven minutes of the game.

That early run in the second half by Wisconsin proved to set the tone for the remainder of the game, and propelled them in the win.

It is hard to get too worked up about a single game, but perhaps the adjustments made at halftime Tuesday evening can help the Badgers right their second half struggles moving forward.

Up next: The Badgers will take their talents back on the road Saturday afternoon for a matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini. Tip-time is set for 1:30 p.m. CST, and can be seen on FOX.