Through the years, Wisconsin has tormented Penn State like few other teams in the Big Ten. Before this weekend's contest, the Badgers had been 12-0 against the Nittany Lions since 2003.
That all changed on Saturday when Penn State knocked off No. 15 Wisconsin 56-52 before a huge Bryce Jordan Center crowd of 14,292, vanquishing demons of years past and proving once and for all that the Lions can play with any team in the country.
Sure, Penn State had already won big games leading up to the contest with the Badgers, but those victories came against Michigan State and Illinois, teams the Lions have proven over the years they can handle. Wisconsin was a different beast entirely. Not only did the Badgers own an apparent edge talent-wise, they entered with a significant mental advantage thanks to their past domination of the Lions.
Penn State's seniors refused to let that stop them, though. Talor Battle led Penn State with 22 points in the win to go with five big rebounds. Jeff Brooks scored 12 points and had two boards. David Jackson scored 10 points including two big 3-pointers and Andrew Jones had a monster day on the glass, grabbing 14 rebounds on the afternoon.
The Lions trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half, but managed to pull back even and eventually grab the lead on the Badgers by defending well and shooting to the tune of 63% in the second half.
And so, Penn State now owns wins over three ranked teams. While that's great news for the Lions' NCAA Tournament resume, let it be made clear: the they still have a lot of work to do. At 12-8, Penn State still doesn't have a whole lot of breathing room with nine games to play. Tuesday's game at No. 21 Illinois will be crucial, as will next Sunday's matchup with Michigan back at the Jordan Center. If you're Penn State, you've got to keep the hammer down.
- Penn State outrebounded its opponent for the sixth straight game, 29-25. No surprise the Lions are 4-2 in those contests. The team's growth on the boards has really opened doors in other areas of the game and bolstered Penn State's surge.
- Talor Battle fought through adversity in the first half to take total control in the second. After tallying only two in the first stanza, Battle came on strong for 20 after the break. Without him, Penn State likely would have been sunk, but he answered the bell for his team once again as he always seems to. Truly a signature performance for the senior.
- Penn State's containment of Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, who scored 18 and 16 points respectively for Wisconsin, was very impressive, especially in the second half. Leuer, with his range and length, was a terrible matchup for Penn State, and Jordan Taylor was a tough out in the back court. Holding those two in reasonable territory and forcing the rest of the team to make shots was a brilliant strategy by the coaching staff and it paid off.
- When Penn State deployed its 1-3-1 zone, it had a lot of success forcing stops. File that bit of info away for the trip to Madison.
- The team did a great job of keeping the Badgers off the line, as they only attempted three foul shots on the day.
- The 63% shooting in the second half was vital after a poor first half.
- Kudos to the student section for not storming the court. Granted, the Jordan Center staff told them not to with the mic cranked up so loud you could have heard it in the Forum building, but whatever.
- Penn State will likely be inside the top 50 of the RPI after this one.
- Wisconsin hit only 30% from 3-point range. Given Penn State's struggles from deep and the Badgers' pedigree in the department, that's quite a development.
- The big crowd raised roughly $30,000 for Coaches Vs. Cancer.
- The Lions need to start getting their crap together in the first half so they don't have to fight so hard in the second. Penn State has been down double digits in the first half in each of its last three games. Life's a lot easier when you aren't constantly swimming upstream.
- Jermaine Marshall's four points were all the bench contributed in this one. The longer the role players force the starters to carry that much of the burden, the greater the possibility Penn State fizzles down the stretch. The bench has to do something to keep the starters fresh.
- The 12-20 performance from the foul line wasn't terrible, but Penn State has done better this season quite a few times.
- The scoreboard at the Jordan Center went completely haywire toward the end of the first half. And I'm not just talking messed up time/score. Everything went nuts. The horn started sounding out of no where. The player points/fouls shorted out for the rest of the game, and play even had to be stopped at one point. Ouch.
Talor Battle and Andrew Jones talk about the victory. Pardon the camera work. I dropped my mouse about halfway through this.
Bo Ryan talks about the game as well as his experience with Talor Battle in Serbia with Team USA.
Ed DeChellis on the big win.
UPDATE: From Andy Katz of ESPN.com.
Penn State has turned into one of the toughest outs in the Big Ten after beating Michigan State, Illinois and now Wisconsin at home. The Nittany Lions nearly beat Ohio State, losing with 46 seconds left and lost at Purdue on a last-second shot. Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said late Saturday the Nittany Lions just need to keep defending, rebounding and they will get that breakthrough road win. Penn State had the look of an NCAA team but it would help their cause if they could beat Ohio State at home March 1 or steal a key road win.