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Wisconsin 51, Penn State 49: Lions Cold Half Sinks Upset Hope

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After only scoring 13 points in the first half, Penn State nearly took the game.

Wisconsin Badgers guard Brad Davison (34) passes the ball as Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) defends during the first half at the Kohl Center Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

If you had the misfortune of watching this disaster of a game, the first thing that may have come to mind would be the 36-33 debacle in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament. Well, this was worse at times. The first half was decidedly in the “worse” category.

The Nittany Lions managed 13 points in the entire first half, and the Badgers weren’t much better. To accentuate how bad that was, the Nittany Lions scored three points in nearly 10 minutes of play. Both teams shot below 30 percent from the field in the first half, and, while the PR team will tell you this was a defensive battle, the reality is that what we saw in that half was a display of dismal basketball, an exercise in futility by both teams.

The Badgers were a tad less futile, which led to their five-point lead into the half. eight turnovers to Wisconsin’s five (which, in fairness, is usually what Wisconsin gets in full games), 16.7 percent from the field to Wisconsin’s 25.8%, and fewer points than the 17 they scored against Indiana, was just as bad as you could possibly imagine for the Lions.

Yes, the travel issues had a lot to do with the Lions being out of rhythm, but to only manage 13 points goes beyond rhythm, and into “what in the world” territory.

The second half saw a modicum of what one would call offense to start. Dallion Johnson hit two quick threes to cut the deficit to two, but Wisconsin also started making shots themselves, and just as quickly increased the lead to seven. Penn State kept going though, and by the under-12 media timeout, the Lions found themselves only down one, and with the ball, after Wisconsin’s Tyler Wahl turned it over.

The Lions would soon find themselves up four, but Wisconsin’s ensuing seven-point run gave the lead right back to the Badgers. At that point in the game, the Penn State bench was outscoring the starters 25 to 15. Greg Lee and Sam Sessoms had a bit of a run, which is what led to the short-lived four point lead. From there on out, however, Wisconsin was able to close out and the Lions starting missing shots again.

After shooting 8.3 percent from outside the arc in the first half, the Lions would end the game shooting 30% from three. That, in large part, is what prevented this game from getting Indiana-bad. It was also what help Penn State make runs of their own to get the contest to a last-second, shot-it-for-the-win attempt.

Four Factors Analysis

How about we skip this section today? No? Well, the second half made this look respectable, but it’s still ugly as sin. The Lions went under 40% eFG, no team was above 20% in any other category, and the points per possession were abysmal by both teams. What else can we really talk about here?

Player of the Game

Greg Lee and Sam Sessoms came alive in the second half, and that was a big reason for the Nittany Lions’ chance at the win in the last possession. The pair combined for 20 of Penn State’s 49 points, while contributing 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and two rebounds between the two.

Random Observations

At Least It Wasn’t a repeat of Indiana - Penn State played exactly as anemic of a first half as they did against Indiana a little over a week ago. Unlike the Hoosiers, Wisconsin wasn’t able to open up a 30 point lead. The Lions played a similar second half as they did against Indiana, but this time around, Wisconsin kept pace. May the lord have mercy on us when Penn State faces Illinois.

Why wasn’t the game delayed? - The Nittany Lions arrived in Madison with barely enough time to dress. Iowa got a postponement against Ohio State for travel reasons. Why couldn’t Penn State get a mere delay?

Cornwall, what the what? - Jaheam Cornwall had several wide open three-point shots in the first half. Each and every time, he tried to pass it instead. Each and every time, it led to a turnover.

The Pink and Blacks are back - The Nittany Lions donned the pink and black uniforms for the first time this season. Unfortunately, it did not lead to a win.

Looking Ahead

The Lions return home, if the snow permits, to face Michigan on Tuesday. Game is at 9 PM, on ESPN2. May the lord have mercy on our eyes.