Defense delivers as Wisconsin wins at Penn St.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. The Wisconsin Badgers came to town and absolutely wrecked the party.
Thanks to a fantastic start to the season and a stop by the Philadelphia Phillies’ World Series trophy tour, Penn State drew its largest crowd in eight years. Most of the 14,686 who filled the Bryce Jordan Center were hoping to see one of the most explosive basketball teams in the Big Ten do what it does best.
To say they went home wanting more would be an understatement.
The Badgers scored a 54-44 victory Sunday afternoon, holding the Nittany Lions to their lowest point total of the season in the process. Penn State was also 0 for 14 from three-point range, which marked the first time since early in the 2002-’03 season that it didn’t hit a three. The team’s star trio, Talor Battle, Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle, combined for 25 points, almost 23 points below their combined average.
Factor in a patient Badgers effort on offense that resulted in just six turnovers and Penn State had little to fuel the up-tempo style it prefers to play.
“We didn’t shoot from the line that well. We didn’t shoot the threes that well. To come away with a ’W,’ it was because (of defense),” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “And offensively, we didn’t turn it over and give them easy ones.”
The victory snapped a four-game road losing streak for Wisconsin and improved its record to 14-9 overall and 5-6 in the Big Ten. The Badgers are tied for seventh place in the league with Michigan.
Marcus Landry had 13 points and six rebounds for Wisconsin. Jon Leuer added 12 points and six boards. Joe Krabbenhoft finished with 10 points and seven rebounds and helped seal the victory by sinking four free throws in the final 2 minutes.
Penn State, which had won nine of its previous 10 Big Ten home games, dropped to 17-7 and 6-5.
“We really finished it out,” Landry said. “We learned from things we weren’t doing the right way. Today’s finish was much better.”
The Badgers scored on six of their final seven possessions after Penn State cut a nine-point deficit to 43-38 on two free throws by David Jackson with 3:36 to play.
Wisconsin wouldn’t cave, though.
Trevon Hughes, who had a game-high four assists, got the roll on his only basket of the night to push the lead back to seven. Two possessions later, Krabbenhoft knocked away an entry pass into the paint. Jason Bohannon picked up the loose ball and threw ahead to Krabbenhoft, whose layup gave the Badgers a 47-38 lead with 2:11 to play.
Battle’s drive cut that lead to seven points with 1:59 left, but UW made the Nittany Lions pay for their full-court pressure by scoring a layup when freshman Jordan Taylor threw ahead to Landry.
Pringle’s drive made it a 49-42 game and turned the game into a free-throw shooting contest. Enter Krabbenhoft, an 88 percent free-throw shooter who made all four of his attempts to push the Badgers’ lead to a game-high 11 points, 53-42, with 1:16 to play.
“They are big, strong and crafty. Give them some credit . . .” said Penn State coach Ed DeChellis, whose team shot just 37 percent. “We ran several things to get our players the ball, but we never got it to them. We just couldn’t get it to them. I’m going to credit their post defense, which was good.”
Hughes, Taylor and Bohannon also deserve some credit for making things hard for Pringle and Battle. The Badgers’ mission was simply to make the two work hard for whatever they got.
Battle, who scored a season-low six points against Wisconsin in the teams’ first meeting, made just four of 15 shots and had 10 points. Pringle, who had a collegiate-high 26 points against the Badgers on Jan. 3, was 4 for 10 overall, 0 for 3 from three-point range and had 11 points.
The defense sustained the Badgers on a day when their offense left much to be desired.
But they were able to put together two key runs that gave them just enough cushion. Bohannon and Tim Jarmusz made the big shots in a 12-1 run at the end of the first half that gave Wisconsin a 28-21 lead.
In the second half, Landry, Krabbenhoft and Bohannon teamed up on a 7-0 run over about 3½ minutes to give the Badgers a 43-34 lead with 5½ minutes to play.
The runs set the stage for the Badgers’ second straight victory. With home games against Iowa on Wednesday and Ohio State on Saturday, they have a chance to build some real momentum.
“One thing we can’t do is look too far ahead,” Landry said. “We have to really look at these last two games and say, ’Hey, we did good and we got the win,’ but we need to take it one game at a time. If we start thinking ahead to who we have down the line, we’re going to take another bump.”