Trips to the Kohl Center are never easy, and most times forgettable. Penn State learned that lesson in dominating fashion Sunday night as it fell to No.10 Wisconsin 76-66, falling back under the .500 mark in Big Ten play.
Keaton Nankivil led the attack for the Badgers, racking up 22 points on 8-9 shooting overall and 5-5 shooting from 3-point territory. Jon Leuer had a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Jordan Taylor had 13 points and seven assists.
The Badgers grabbed an early lead and maintained it at double digits for most of the game. Penn State closed the gap heading down the stretch, but by that time, it was too late.
Penn State's postseason outlook remains largely unchanged, however. A win would have done a tremendous amount of good, but the loss isn't particularly devastating. In fact, it might even boost the RPI a little bit. Ultimately, Penn State needs to finish 9-9, and with games against struggling Northwestern and Minnesota squads coming down the road, that's still very realistic. A shot at Ohio State at home is icing on the cake. If Penn State can managed 2-1 down the stretch here, it will very likely have a chance to play its way in in Indianapolis at the Big Ten Tournament without having to win the event outright, which is a chance most reasonable fans would have given their right arm for in the fall.
- Penn State had a solid shooting night, finishing at 53%. The Lions also went 50% from the 3-point line, definitely one of their most impressive efforts this season.
- Who says Ed DeChellis can't develop guards? Tim Frazier continues to grow before our very eyes, and it's fun to watch. For an undersized guard who often looks a little out of control, he's developing into a very solid and well-rounded point guard. We always knew he could dish to the scorers and rebound a little, but now we're starting to see him score, too, all good signs from the sophomore.
- Holy triple shooting. While Penn State has shot a large volume of threes all season, we haven't seen many performances as impressive percentage wise as this game. Perhaps the Lions can get a little momentum going in that department as they prepare for the stretch run.
- Jeff Brooks hasn't been the same rebounder he was early in the season, and his one board against the Badgers really drives that home. It hasn't just been since his injury, either. Brooks grabbed three or less boards in the two games before he was injured and had only two by late in the first half at Illinois when he exited. Penn State misses the big average he was posting earlier in the season.
- Penn State made one more field goal and three more 3-pointers than Wisconsin and shot an even percentage. The Badgers beat the Lions by 15 points at the free throw line, though, and that was the difference. Penn State just couldn't keep Wisconsin off the line, and it paid, plain and simple.
- The Lions often struggle when they're outrebounded, as they were Sunday in Wisconsin when they fell short 24-19 in that department. If the team doesn't regain its rebounding edge from earlier in the conference season, that's bad news.
- Andrew Jones' line of one point, one rebound, one assist, one steal, one turnover and one foul is pretty ugly for the obvious reasons, but it's so interesting that I can't really give him a hard time for it. Penn State may never see another 2,000 point scorer like Battle, but it may also never see another evening like that, so...thanks?
- Penn State had 10 turnovers in the game, snapping its streak of five straight games under double-digits in that area.
- Watching Keaton Nankivil go nuts from three was one of those "Whatcha gonna do?" moments that happen in basketball sometimes. While, yes, Penn State's perimeter defense has been shoddy all year and wasn't much better against Wisconsin, it's understandable that Nankivil got some of the better looks that he did. When you've got a guy who can attack the basket and shoot the three like him, sometimes you've just got to sit back a little and hope he misses a couple. He didn't. That's the breaks sometimes.