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Penn State 56, No. 19 Wisconsin 72: No Repeat Performance For The Lions

Lions looked good in the first half, but they couldn’t keep up in the second.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Nittany Lions, as our humble blog has written about several times already, snapped a 13-game losing streak against the then-No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers. The Lions scored 81 points, about 20 points more than the Badgers are allowing on the season. They did so by dictating the game: Play with pace, make shots, and turn Wisconsin over.

The formula for this game was already set. All Penn State would need to is score a ton, turn Wisconsin over, and stay out of foul trouble. Now they had to do it at the Kohl Center, a place where the Nittany Lions had never won. No biggie.

If you’re into the Groundhog Day comparisons, this game started pretty similarly to the one on Saturday. The teams were even tied at 7 four minutes into the first half, just like Saturday. The Nittany Lions were turning over Wisconsin at a pretty good rate too. Slowly, but surely, however, the similarities started to dissipate. Unlike Saturday, Penn State was not making their shots. Unlike Saturday, the Lions put the Badgers in the bonus by the 7-minute mark in the first half. Unlike Saturday, the Nittany Lions already had seven turnovers in the first half. They had six all game on Saturday. Unlike Saturday, Wisconsin didn’t have trouble moving the ball inside and preventing Penn State from doing the same. And, unlike Saturday, Wisconsin was able to build a lead that they could sit on, just the way they like it. All that said, like Saturday, the halftime score was nearly identical, with Wisconsin taking the 33-31 lead into the half.

If you were looking for a ground hog second half performance, you’ll leave disappointed. It was Wisconsin who started out on fire in the second half, extending their two-point lead to nine before Jim Ferry was forced to call a timeout to stem the tide. Penn State started the second half 0-for-4 from the floor, and everything the Lions tried to do, Wisconsin was able to stop cold. Not five minutes into the second half the Badgers were back playing the type of game they like: Build a lead large enough to feel comfortable, sit on the ball for 29 second a possession, and play relentless defense knowing that it’s the other team that will get called for fouls.

All in all, Penn State was undone by its inability to find a shot in the second half. Wisconsin didn’t do anything differently in this game, other than ensure they attacked the boards harder than they did on Saturday. But, when you can’t make any shots, everything comes harder than it needs to.

Four Factors Analysis

These numbers looked great at halftime. Then Penn State fell off a cliff in the second, and effectively had the opposite performance in the second half as they did on Saturday. Every stat in this category is flipped from what it was on Saturday, mostly due to the Badgers being able to play their game from the cushy confines of their home court.

Player of the Game

Hard to take many positives from this one, but let’s give it to John Harrar for battling through and getting another gritty game. Harrar also made all his free throws, to go along with his 10 points and 5 rebounds.

Random Observations

The Pink and Black curse? - Penn State has gone from winning just about every game in their pink and black uniforms to losing every time they wear their alternates. Talk about bad luck!

This is what people expected on Saturday - Some of the fouls called against Penn State in this game were the kind we’re used to seeing. Some of the more egregious calls were spread evenly, but anything that was questionable usually went against the Nittany Lions. JUST HOW WE LIKE IT!

Looking Ahead

Penn State returns home to face a Maryland team that seems to do a lot better on the road than they do in their own court, although they themselves just won their first home game against Purdue in the earlier tilt. Game is on Friday at 7 PM on FS1.