Nankivil, UW roll at home
Keaton Nankivil scored 22 points and tied a career high by hitting all five of his three-point attempts, leading No. 10 Wisconsin over Penn State, 76-66, on Sunday night for its 20th consecutive win coming off a loss.
“Those kind of numbers ... I don’t really follow them,” coach Bo Ryan said of the streak. “I do know this: Our guys have been resilient and, as long as they stay resilient, we’ll have a chance.”
Only Kansas has a longer streak at 23 wins coming off a loss dating to January 2006.
Jon Leuer added 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Badgers (20-6, 10-4 Big Ten) reached 20 wins for the eighth time in the last nine seasons after having four 20-win seasons in the first 103 years of the program. Nankivil didn’t talk postgame after needing treatment when he rolled his right ankle early in the first half.
“He’s a rhythm shooter and when he gets in a rhythm, he’s as good a shooter as anybody in the country. Look what he did tonight,” Leuer said. “We knew just get him the ball.”
The Badgers’ victory, coupled with No. 11 Purdue’s upset of No. 2 Ohio State, puts Wisconsin one game behind the Boilermakers and two behind the Buckeyes in the conference race.
“We saw the result, the game, but we didn’t really think about that too much,” said Josh Gasser, who scored 13 points. “That’s something we can’t really control.”
Talor Battle led Penn State (14-12, 7-8) with 23 points, but the Nittany Lions’ NCAA tournament hopes took a hit with games left against Northwestern, Ohio State and Minnesota.
“We need the next three—all three,” said Jeff Brooks, who finished with 16 points.
Leuer reached double figures for the 33rd consecutive game and Wisconsin avenged a 56-52 loss to Penn State three weeks ago when Battle scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime.
In this one, Battle took
the lead in the Big Ten scoring race over Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson with 20 of his 23 points coming after the break, but it still wasn’t enough for the Nittany Lions to mount a serious rally.
Penn State never got closer than nine points in the second half, when Battle hit a 3 with 56 seconds left. Wisconsin, the nation’s best free-throw shooting team, finished 18 of 21 from the line.
Tim Frazier added 12 points for the Nittany Lions, who are 1-8 on the road this season and didn’t face an easy road in or out of Madison.
High winds forced Penn State to take the 2½-hour bus ride to Pittsburgh, staying overnight there for a Friday flight and kept the team from getting a full practice in. DeChellis said the winter storm bearing down on Wisconsin also made it iffy that the Nittany Lions would get home on Sunday night.
The 6-foot-8 Nankivil finished 8 of 9 from the field and was three points short of his career high. He got Wisconsin off to a quick start with three three-pointers in the opening 6 minutes as Wisconsin built a 15-point first-half lead.
“He’s an opportunistic young man. His guy maybe helped a little bit or whatever the case, but he found himself open,” Ryan said. “He’s a guy who knows how to plant his feet and stare it down. He can extend defenses, and he’s always been like that. When they’re going in, it looks good.”
Wisconsin won its 18th straight at the Kohl Center, and the Badgers haven’t lost consecutive games anywhere since a six-game skid in January 2009.
“Losing leaves a sour taste in your mouth and you want to get rid of that as quick as possible,” Leuer said. “The group of guys that we have have done a great job of just refocusing after a loss, picking out things that they didn’t do well and correcting them.”