Day two of the Big Ten Tournament starts with a bang, as two teams in the bubble square off for the right to be firmly in the field. The day ends with two teams headed in seemingly opposite directions, as the Wisconsin Badgers have now lost three straight and three of five, its lone win since February 10th coming against Northwestern.
In fact, Wisconsin hasn’t beaten anyone outside the bottom four in the conference since January 27, when it beat Maryland on the road. Even though one of Wisconsin’s three wins since that Maryland game did come against Penn State, the fact that they haven’t looked like the Wisconsin team everyone expected them to bodes well for the Nittany Lions, who are trying to stay alive come hell or high water.
The Nittany Lions were able to handle the Badgers the first time out, by making sure Penn State played its game and not Wisconsin’s. The opposite was true the second time around, as the Badgers slowed down the pace considerably, did not turn the ball over nearly as much as they had in the first meeting, and 50% from three, as opposed to the 25% they shot on the road.
All that said, Wisconsin has been shooting poorly still, so Penn State can take advantage of this to once again speed up the Badgers and make them uncomfortable from the start. On top of that, the Nittany Lions might have the advantage of having played in the arena already, and may not need a half to get used to the court.
What To Watch For
Will Penn State take a half to wake up, like it has in the past two games? Maryland, out of necessity, plays a ton like Wisconsin this year, but it’s still not a position you want to be in if you want to advance in this tournament. The Nittany Lions will need to start fast and stay fast, and hopefully, if all goes well, log a lot less minutes on the starters.
In their first game, the Lions did a great job of turning over Wisconsin. This is going to be paramount once again, if Penn State wants to make sure they play their game and not Wisconsin’s.
Home games still matter. Wisconsin got the better of the Lions at home. But last night, Penn State showed it’s not a team that wants to go home just yet. Penn State 64, Wisconsin 61.