Penn St upsets No. 17 Wisconsin, 56-52
But beating No. 17 Wisconsin on Saturday was especially special.
Battle scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime and the Nittany Lions crashed the boards and turned up the defensive pressure in the second half to beat the Badgers, 56-52.
Finally, a 12-game losing streak over eight years to Wisconsin (15-5, 5-3) was over. Battle and his three fellow seniors had never tasted victory against the Badgers — until Saturday.
"That's why he hugged me at the end of the game," a happy DeChellis said. "Four years of frustration."
Jon Leuer led Wisconsin with 18 points, while Jeff Brooks scored 12 and Andrew Jones grabbed 14 rebounds to the help the Nittany Lions (12-8, 5-4) overcome a 13-point deficit in the first half.
"Our kids, we believe we can win," DeChellis said.
The results haven't always been there, though, in Happy Valley, where the basketball team often struggles to fill the 15,000-plus seat Jordan Center.
Not Saturday, when Battle, Brooks and Jones helped deliver another important win for Penn State's postseason resume in front of about 14,200 fans who came out in spite of about a couple inches of morning snow.
Go-to guy Battle led the charge — as usual. His 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with 10:51 left gave Penn State its first lead of the night.
With Wisconsin threatening to regain the momentum by slowing the game down to a comfortably methodical pace, Battle's 3 from about 30 feet put the Nittany Lions up for good, 43-42 with 4:51 left, and Brooks followed with another 3 about 30 seconds later to force the Badgers to call timeout.
Then with 1:16 left Battle drove the lane before feeding Jones for a layup for a 50-44 lead. Battle finished it off by going 5 of 6 from the line over the final 25 seconds.
Penn State also benefited from several missed open looks from the Badgers, who shot 32 percent in the second half after hitting 54 percent in the first.
"I'm telling you, every guy in that locker room knows you've got to hit a couple of those. There's not a basketball player alive who doesn't thrive on that," coach Bo Ryan said. "You've got to nail a couple of them."
Leuer and Jordan Taylor (16 points) made it a habit of hitting tough shots with the shot clock winding down in the first half, including Taylor's 3 with the shot clock winding down for a 22-9 lead at 7:39 of the first half.
The Badgers' star duo had a tougher time in the second after the Nittany Lions took their coach's pregame message to heart.
"The key to the game ... was to embrace the phsyicality of the game," DeChellis said. "I thought we had to play hard without fouling."
Penn State hit 12 of 20 for the game from the foul line, compared to just 2 of 3 for the Badgers.
Penn State also stood up to Wisconsin's trademark physical play, and ended up outrebounding the Badgers 29-25 after a poor start on the glass limited second-chance points.
Still, Wisconsin whittled the seven-point deficit to three with 7 seconds left after Keaton Nankivil (11 points, seven rebounds) nailed his third 3-pointer of the night.
"When Nankivil hit the shot ... I thought, 'Oh boy, here we go again,'" DeChellis said.
Instead, Battle went 1 of 2 from the foul line with 4 seconds left to seal the victory.
Unlike the previous two upsets of Top 25 foes, over Michigan State and Illinois, the Nittany Lions fans heeded the pleas of the public address announcer and did not rush the court.
At one point, Jones looked up into the stands after a timeout and was taken aback by how they were packed with people.
"He said, 'It's rocking here,'" Battle said, "and I said, 'Yeah, we've got to keep them coming back and win this game.'"
DeChellis and his staff wore white sneakers and headbands in honor of Coaches vs. Cancer Day, while Wisconsin counterpart Bo Ryan sported styling bright red sneakers.
But it was Battle, Brooks and Jones who made the biggest statements on the court.
"Penn State and its seniors, all those guys are on the same page," Ryan said.
Last updated: 2:12 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012