Riding on the white horse of momentum from the improbable season sweep of Ohio State, Penn State came into today's game determined to try and thwart another big-time opponent in their lone meeting with Wisconsin, on what was Tim Frazier's final game at the Bryce Jordan Center. While Tim technically got the 'W' on his senior night, he wasn't able to repeat that success today, as Wisconsin came up with the 71-66 victory. Frazier pitched in 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists, while his backcourt mate DJ Newbill led the way for PSU with 23 points, 3 boards, and an assist. Ross Travis also pitched in double-figures scoring (10 points) along with his 8 rebounds, and Brandon Taylor came up one point shy of a double-double himself (9 points, 10 boards). Wisconsin was led by the three-headed backcourt monster of Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, and Traevon Jackson (15, 14, and 13 points, respectively). Gasser and Brust also shot a combined 7-of-13 from three-point range, which ended up making all the difference in a tight contest, especially with PSU's god-awful 1-for-13 performance from downtown.
PSU opened up the scoring with a Jordan Dickerson layup, but that would be the only time they would lead all day. PSU managed to stay within striking range and would go on significant runs when Wisconsin threatened to blow the game wide open, but every time PSU had it down to a one-possession contest, someone from the Badgers' three-headed monster would step up and nail a shot to quiet the momentum. The PSU hoop stars still had a chance down the stretch in the game's final minute, as Frazier made an improbable layup to cut the deficit to 66-64 with 18 seconds left. However, some clutch free throw shooting by Jackson and a (perhaps ill-advised) three-point attempt by DJ Newbill coming up shy put the game out of reach.
Four Factors Analysis
Both teams were relatively efficient with their possessions today, although PSU had a few more ill-timed turnovers than the Badgers. The Badgers also got a ton more opportunities at the free throw line, hitting 19-of-24 to PSU's 9-of-13. Despite a solid 48.8% field goal shooting, PSU's abysmal 1-for-13 perimeter shooting was the difference maker in this one when you consider the fact that the Badgers hit 8 of their 24 three-point attempts. If just a few more of those three pointer fall through, I might very well be writing a happier postgame recap.
Player of the Game
DJ Newbill, and it's not even close. His aggressiveness in driving to the rim and general take-charge attitude played a vital role in keeping PSU in the game. It also bodes a good sign for next year, as there should be no doubts about strong leadership on the squad.
- Team Ream - In addition to the being Frazier's final game at the BJC, today was also "Team Ream" day. The day was meant to honor Brandon Ream, a former Penn State football player, State College native, and lifelong Penn State hoops fan who passed away last November after a two year battle with cancer. While Team Ream was initially crafted as a method of support for Brandon's cancer battle by family and friends, it has since grown into a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support to financially disadvantaged families in the State College area who have a loved one suffering from a serious illness. For more information, you can visit Team Ream's website here.
- B-Titty's Newfound Post Game - For most of this season, Brandon Taylor had been known as a forward who favored launching it from the perimeter. Today though, Pat Chambers had him playing down low and it sure paid off for him, as he nearly notched a double-double. Let's hope this is the start of a positive trend for B-Titty.
- He Chose...Poorly - A lot of folks on Twitter expressed frustration over the fact that Geno Thorpe did not see a single minute of action today despite playing a vital role in the upset over Ohio State a few days earlier. According to 247's Jeff Rice, Chambers claimed Geno did not play due to "a poor choice." Chambers also said Geno would be back in the lineup this week. Yesterday was also "State Patty's Day" and while I don't want to get all Anna Orso on you, it's possible to put 2 and 2 together and reasonably guess what that "poor choice" may have involved.
Penn State (14-15, 5-11 in the B1G) faces a must-win contest on Thursday at a last-place Northwestern team that has come crashing down to Earth (7 PM ET, ESPNU). Although seemingly improbable, closing out the regular season with wins at Northwestern and Minnesota and stealing a game or two in the B1G Tournament might get them a very thorough like from the NIT selection committee. If that doesn't pan out however, the CBI remains a very distinct possibility. Stay tuned.