It was a frustrating night for Micah Shrewsberry and the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday night. After suffering another gut wrenching loss to Wisconsin, knocking them to 1-18 in their last 19 games against the Badgers, the Nittany Lions are now 14-10 on the season and their NCAA Tournament hopes could be on life support.
At one point in the first half the Nittany Lions missed seven consecutive shots. This stretched included the team committing four fouls to go with a pair of turnovers. It was a stretch that prevented the Nittany Lions from being able to capitalize on a slow offensive start from the Badgers.
Adding to Penn State facing a first half deficit was the team’s woes from three-point range. All season long the Nittany Lions have lived and died by the three ball, in the first half on Wednesday night Penn State was just 2/9 from deep.
Jalen Pickett hit a floater in the final second of the first half, cutting Wisconsin’s halftime lead to 35-29. This was the start of Pickett finally getting into gear. In the second half he played more under control, and did a great job distributing basketball while also creating offense himself.
Andrew Funk nailed a three-point shot with 4:57 remaining that tied the game. This started a back-and-forth final five minutes of the game. Including Funk’s three, the final 4:57 of regulation saw five lead changes and four ties.
During this stretch the officials mostly swallowed their whistles, including new call being made when it appeared Funk had hit arm hit on a turnover he committed with a minute left in the game. This turnover set up a three-point shot that Hepburn sunk with 30.8 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin a 68-65 lead.
With Penn State’s backs against the wall Seth Lundy would step up and respond. With 23 seconds remaining the game Lundy drilled his fourth three-point shot of the night to tie the game at 68, setting up overtime.
Wisconsin scored first in overtime and then managed to keep Penn State at an arm’s length. Any time Penn State would pull within a possession, the Badger would respond with a basket to go back up by two scores.
With 30 seconds left in overtime and Penn State trailing by four, Cam Wynter had a wide open look from three and the shot looked golden only for it to rim out. This truly proved to be the death knell for the Nittany Lions in their 79-74 loss.
Player of the Game
Jalen Pickett — 17 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists
Once again, Pickett was Penn State’s best player. He would foul out in overtime due to needing to extend the game, but he led the Nittany Lions in points, rebounds, and assists. IT really would be unfortunate to see the Nittany Lions waste a borderline All-American type season from Pickett.
Career night for Kebba Njie — There is no denying the talent and ceiling of Kebba Njie, but the true freshman has had plenty of struggles and growing pains this season. Wednesday night, however, was the best game he has played as a Nittany Lion. For much of the night he looked confident and in control, on his way to going 2-of-3 from the field while pulling in 6 rebounds.
Group effort from the Badgers — Wisconsin used a team effort on their way to recording their victory on Wednesday night. For Badger players scored at least 11 points in the victory, while Hepburn and Tyler Wahl rose up and led the Badgers the way a team’s best players should.
The slide may have begun — One thing Penn State had done so well all season was responding to adversity. When it appeared they might be knocked down, they would rebound with victories. This is a big reason why for most of the season the Nittany Lions looked like a NCAA Tournament squad. All of a sudden, the Nittany Lions have lost three games in a row, four of five, and are just 3-7 in their last 10 games. Unfortunately, it appears their NCAA Tournament hopes are fading in a hurry.
Next up for the Nittany Lions is a challenging road test in College Park against Maryland on Saturday. A game the Nittany Lions are in dire need of, it will tipoff 12:00 PM ET and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.