Penn State has struggled mightily on the road this season, and in a season that begs fans to search for moral victories, you had to like how Tim Frazier and company battle from behind in the second half in the Kohl Center.
Wisconsin got red hot in the first half and saw 7 of their 14 three-pointers go in to take a 35-21 lead into the half, but Penn State made sure the home fans got at least a little nervous. Starting with a Jon Graham layup with 11:39 left in the game, the Lions rolled off a 17-2 run that took a 20-point Wisconsin advantage down to just 5 points when Graham struck again with just under six minutes remaining.
The very next possession saw Jared Berggren hit a clutch three-pointer to bring the score to 54-46 and break up the run. Although the Lions would hang on for a little while longer, another Berggren trey with 3:50 left brought the lead up to 9. After Frazier failed to answer on Penn State’s possession, Jordan Taylor connected on a mid-range jumper that proved to be the dagger.
Penn State did some things right in this game. Although they had great difficulty in stopping the Badgers from taking and making three-pointers, the story was different from inside the arc. Wisconsin was only 9 of 25 (36%) on two-pointers, compared to 18 of 38 (47%) for Penn State.
Although the Lions did take too many three-pointers against a team that does not allow open looks from long range, they at least made some adjustments and created opportunities for Jon Graham. Three times during the big run, Graham scored on buckets off of feeds from Frazier or Jermaine Marshall. This kind of skillful passing into the post has been missing from the Penn State offense and is something that should be implemented more often, because even with a guy as clumsy as Graham in the post, the strategy was more effective that jacking up threes. Graham finished with 9 points and 10 rebounds (4 on offense) and would have had a double-double if he weren’t such an awful free throw shooter.
Tim Frazier was really, really good as usual. He put in 20 points with 4 rebounds and 4 assists on 9 of 20 shooting. He would have had an even better day had he not gone 0 for 3 on three-pointers that he had no business taking. However, it’s not as though Frazier had much help. Marshall was the only other Nittany Lion worth much on Sunday. He got his now standard 12 points on 4 of 8 shooting.
Overall, Penn State only turned the ball over 5 times, which is good, but forcing turnovers is not something Wisconsin tries to do. Penn State played into their hands with poor long range shooting and also like most Wisconsin opponents, the Lions did not get to the free throw line often (7 for 11 from the stripe).
The Badgers were led in scoring by Josh Gasser, who finished with 15 points. Nine of those were during a Wisconsin shooting spree that allowed them to pull ahead in the first half. It all happened very fast.
The rally killer Jared Berggren had 13 points and 6 rebounds for himself, while Taylor was held to just 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting with 4 assists. Meanwhile Mike Bruesewitz did his best Draymond Green impression and led the Badgers in both rebounds and assists with 12 of the boards and 5 of the dimes.
Like I said before, Penn State was quite limited in the noteworthy contributors department. Matt Glover played 11 minutes and no shot attempts. Sasa Borovnjak, who I’m beginning to believe Coach Chambers just doesn’t like, only played 5 minutes and was 1 of 2 from the field. Both players were riding the pine despite Camm Woodyard shooting 1 of 9 and Nick Collela going 1 of 5. What gives?
At least Ross Travis played 23 minutes and went 2 of 3 with 5 points. He had a really nice baseline drive for two during the big run, but only grabbed 2 rebounds on the game. Still looks like he has potential.
Penn State has the rest of the week off. The next game is home against a desperate Northwestern team on Saturday. The Purple Cats will be playing for their tourney lives, so Penn State better bring it.