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Wisconsin Basketball: The good and the bad vs Penn State

The good and the bad from Wisconsin’s 63-60 win over Penn State.

The Wisconsin Badgers narrowly defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions on Tuesday in a close 63-60 win, snapping a three-game losing streak and improving their conference record to 4-3.

The Badgers had recently lost to the Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan State Spartans, and the Indiana Hoosiers, dropping them out of the AP Top 25 after they were ranked as high as No. 14.

As always, the game came with the “good” and the “bad”, so let’s evaluate where Wisconsin impressed and needs improvement based on their performance against the Nittany Lions.

The Good

Steven Crowl

Crowl had a bounce-back performance, leading the Badgers with 21 points and 11 rebounds after struggling against Indiana over the weekend.

The 7’0 forward has now reached the 15-point mark in six of his past seven games, while shooting at least 50% from the field in those performances.

With Tyler Wahl suffering an injury, Crowl has been the go-to guy in the post and he has delivered.

Crowl had a strong second half against the Nittany Lions, scoring 13 of Wisconsin’s 33 points, which was why it was questionable that the Badgers didn’t provide him a touch on their final two offensive possessions.

Connor Essegian

The freshman guard earned his first career start for the Badgers on Tuesday and delivered when earning opportunities, tying for second on the team with 10 points on 4/7 shooting, including 50% from three-point range.

With the amount of volume that Wahl, Crowl, and Chucky Hepburn consume, the Badgers haven’t created enough shots for Essegian, but head coach Greg Gard trusted his freshman with an out-of-bounds play late in the game, where the 6’4, 185-pound guard splashed a key three-pointer.

Essegian played the most first-half minutes of any Badger, and finished the game with the highest plus-minus at +10.

He deserves more scoring opportunities moving forward, especially with the amount of movement he has off the ball.


The Badgers continued to be stout in regard to turnovers, giving away just six takeaways, while forcing ten of their own.

Wisconsin and Penn State are the teams committing the least amount of turnovers in the Big 10, which is why it was vital to win the takeaway battle on Tuesday night, which the Badgers did.

Furthermore, Wisconsin scored 15 points off turnovers in comparison to Penn State’s 0, which was a leading factor for their win.

The Bad

Tyler Wahl

Wahl clearly was rusty coming off his ankle injury, as the forward repeatedly forced inside shots, as seen through his 2/9 shooting rate inside the arc.

Known as a strong defender, Wahl struggled in that area on Tuesday too, selling out for pump fakes, while not distributing his regular energy.

The Badgers certainly need Wahl, as seen through their three-game slide while he was injured, but the forward was off his game on Tuesday.

Luckily for Wahl, the Badgers may not play this weekend against the Northwestern Wildcats due to COVID issues, which could provide an extra week of rest before Wisconsin’s second showdown against the Maryland Terrapins next week.

Three-point defense

The Badgers were getting torched from distance early on, allowing 55.6% of Penn State’s threes to connect in the first half, hence the Nittany Lions’ six-point lead at halftime.

While Penn State shot 40% from distance, it wasn’t a great effort to defend the three by Wisconsin, as the Nittany Lions came into the game shooting the most threes in the Big 10 and connecting at the highest rate: 39.6%.

The Badgers will need better consistency from the beginning when defending the three, especially after allowing Illinois and Michigan State to hit over 50% of their threes in recent losses.