It wasn't quite as bad as the last time these two teams met, but it sure was ugly. The Nits were unable to grit out a few more buckets to upset the Badgers in front of a large student crowd at the BJC. It was unfortunate because PSU wasted a very good defensive effort and caught an off-shooting night from Wisconsin. Penn State moved to 10-13 (2-8 in the Big Ten) on the year.
The PSU offense ran strictly through Jermaine Marshall (13 points) and Tim Frazier (21 points, 7 assists). Cammeron Woodyard wasn't able to shoot like he usually does in the BJC, only making 1 of 6 shots. Jon Graham got a few looks around the bucket on some nice feeds. Otherwise, no one else was interested in scoring the basketball. Matt Glover played 30 minutes and didn't take one shot. Sasa Borovnjak and Ross Travis were also no shows on the scoreboard. Nick Colella hit a three-pointer, which was enough to earn him 6th man of the game honors by the BTN.
After the first four minutes, the score was 8-6 in favor of Penn State. Obviously that pace didn't last very long as the two teams combined for just 7 points over the next 10 minutes of play. Penn State found some rhythm with Jermaine Marshall (10 first half points on 5-7 FG) and went on a 10-0 run to open a 18-9 lead. A strange ending to the half due to a couple of horrendous calls allowed for Jordan Taylor to get a put-back at the buzzer. Penn State led 23-17.
The beginning of the 2nd half was going to be big for Penn State, and they came out flat. There was no momentum, and Wisconsin took control of the game. Penn State's play on both sides suffered and after a 16-3 run to open the half, Wisconsin led by 7. Tim Frazier tried to put the team on his back, scoring 17 of his 21 in the 2nd half. For most of the 2nd period, Frazier was the only offense for the Nittany Lions.
But once the game got closer, Jordan Taylor took over as well. He scored 10 straight points down the stretch to open up a 36-34 lead to 46-39 with just under a minute to play. The big sequence that summed up the night for Penn State was on one of their final possessions. They trailed by 2 points with three minutes to play. Tim Frazier missed a layup, but Jon Graham made a nice play in grabbing the rebound and getting fouled. Unfortunately, the now 33% foul shooter missed both attempts, but Ross Travis was able to save the possession with another offensive rebound. That led to a missed three-pointer from Marshall, but Travis saved the possession for a 3rd time with yet another offensive rebound. All of the effort resulted in one more agonizing miss as Marshall couldn't convert a dunk. Jordan Taylor came down the floor and put the game away with a 3.
Coach Chambers has preached defense, rebounding, and playing hard all season long, but the missed shots are seemingly starting to frustrate the young coach. He even turned around a question about defense into an offense-minded response:
Q: Is that something you will use that you can play 98% defense but he is good enough to take advantage of that one second you don't get over the screen?
A: I've got to tell you, we talked about it for three days. We've got to get it done. We've got to get it done. We've got to listen, we've got to execute what we're trying to do. We've got to get it done. We worked hard the last few days and I think it was noticeable. We worked hard on ouroffense. I think that was noticeable. There was a lot more movement - we got a lot more open shots. Guys have got to get in the gym. They have to shoot extra. They have to do what they got to do. We just can't keep going on this path.
We feel your pain, Coach.
None of the numbers were too big of a surprise, except the shooting was pretty terrible. Penn State wasn't able to force Wisconsin into any turnovers, but I thought they did a solid job preventing them from going to the line. Wisconsin shot most of their 19 free throws with under 5 minutes to play. The rebounding battle was much closer until PSU snagged 3 offensive boards on that empty possession at the end of the game.
All PSU can do is keeping working and moving forward, but some more time in the gym might not be such a bad idea. The Nittany Lions travel to Iowa for their next game on Saturday at 3 PM.