Folks will make jokes about Penn State's 36-33 upset of Wisconsin Friday night in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals for a long time. You can bet the Nittany Lions wouldn't change a moment of it, though, as they now stand on the verge of earning an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2001.
Talor Battle, even on a night he couldn't possibly have played mush worse, led the Lions in scoring with nine points on 3-18 shooting from the field. Tim Frazier followed him in the scoring column with eight points, but also contributed a game high seven rebounds and four assists. Andrew Jones, Jeff Brooks and David Jackson combined for 19 points to round out Penn State's scoring.
As they did against Indiana on Thursday night, the Lions came out gunning and jumped out to an early 18-2 lead. Those good feelings didn't last long, however, as Penn State failed to score a field goal for the final 11 minutes of the half and watched Wisconsin tie the game early in the second half. A Battle 3-pointer with 2:29 remaining in the game gave the Lions a five point lead late, though, and despite the fact the Badgers and guard Jordan Taylor got a few clean looks as the seconds wound down, Penn State managed to hold on for its second win against Wisconsin this season.
Battle and Co. now advance to the semifinals where 7th-seeded Michigan State awaits at 4:05 P.M. Saturday on CBS. ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi has Penn State among his "Last Four In" to the NCAA Tournament as of Saturday morning, so the Lions are finally on the right side of the playground. However, the bubble has collectively played well in the conference tournaments and a slip up by Penn State against Sparty could very well drop it from the field. This ride isn't over yet.
- Battle's late 3-pointer made him the Penn State's all-time leading scorer as he passed Jesse Arnelle for the top spot on the list. Perhaps the record breaking shot didn't come among any of his best performances in blue and white, but it couldn't have been more appropriate that the shot may have been among his most clutch yet.
- Taylor and forward Jon Leuer combined to score 26 points for Wisconsin. The rest of the team scored seven points. That's an outstanding accomplishment for the Lions defensively considering Keaton Nankivil torched them for 22 points on 5-5 shooting from 3-point territory in Madison. Secondary scorers have had success against Penn State all season, but not Friday night. Give Penn State tons of credit for forcing Taylor and Leuer to make shots and not allowing the other guys to beat them.
- Wisconsin was dreadful from 3-point territory, finishing 2-21 on the evening. Give Penn State some credit for that, too, but remember to pay homage to the basketball gods for smiling on the Lions after they stuck it to them last week by helping Ohio State's Jon Diebler shoot a divine 10-12 from the arc.
- Tim Frazier played a solid game offensively. He was the only one for Penn State.
- Your bench production for the evening: 10 minutes, no points, one assist, one turnover. Speaks for itself.
- Battle's inefficient shooting was mostly his fault, but his teammates certainly didn't help. There were several instances of Bubby being forced to take desperation heaves as the shot clock wound down thanks to guys just standing around watching. It can't be all Battle all the time, fellas.
- All five Penn State starters finished with at least 35 minutes. Only Kalin Lucas played that many for Michigan State against Purdue. You've got to think the Lions are going to be more worn down than the Spartans as a result of that.
- Penn State shot 33% for the game. You don't win many basketball games with that number.
- Wisconsin: 15-51 from the field.
- The bubble continued to play well on Friday as Michigan State, Michigan, Alabama, Clemson, and Virginia Tech all picked up wins Penn State would rather have not seen them get. If a few of those teams had been knocked off, the Lions would likely be relatively safe. Instead, they're only slightly better off than they were when they woke up.