The Big 10 regular season will end on Sunday against the same Wisconsin Badgers team that the Lions faced back in January to kick off the Big 10 schedule in Madison. This will be the first of 2 meetings over the next 5 days, as the two teams will meet in the opening round of the conference tournament on Thursday afternoon in Chicago.
THE LAST TIME OUT
Two very long and dubious streaks came to an end for Penn State Thursday night in Evanston. The 66-59 win over Northwestern ended a 17 game Big 10 road losing streak, and a 19 game overall losing streak away from Happy Valley. It was not pretty for much of the night, but the Lions were able to do just enough on both ends of the floor to get out of Welsh-Ryan Arena with a W. PSU scored the first 12 points of the game, and the first 7 of the second half, but squandered away those leads on both occasions. D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall were again the headliners on offense, scoring 18 points each, but also combining for 10 of PSU’s 16 turnovers. Sasa Borovnjak continued to hold down things in the post, posting his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. A strong shooting night (49% from the field, 7/17 from three) helped PSU overcome those 16 turnovers, as well as a strong defensive effort. The Wildcats shot just 35%, and turned the ball over 15 times.
ABOUT THE BADGERS
At the time I was posting our recap of the PSU win, the Badgers were facing Michigan State, with the victor staying alive for a share of the Big 10 regular season title. Instead of coming to the Jordan Center with a shot to share the championship with Indiana, Michigan and Indiana, Wisconsin was run out of the Breslin Center in a 58-43 loss, that really was not that close. That loss sewed up the 5th spot for the Badgers, and the rematch with PSU on Thursday. It was also the Badgers second straight loss after Purdue went into the Kohl Center and held the Badgers to just 20 second half points in a 69-56 win. While the offense has sputtered down the stretch for Bo Ryan, he is still getting the aggressive defense his teams rely on.
When these teams met in Madison, PSU was able to play solid defense and shoot the ball in a 60-51 loss that felt much closer than the final score. What did the Lions in was 15 turnovers, including 5 from Newbill, who was playing the point for the first time in the Big 10, and 4 more by Marshall. PSU will need to continue their improved play on the offensive end (let’s just say that Minnesota never happened), but hang onto the ball. The Badgers typically take care of the ball (only 4 turnovers vs. PSU in January), and rebound well, and Penn State cannot count on extra possessions. If PSU gets the type of performance from Borovnjak and Ross Travis they have had in the last few weeks, and takes care of the ball, I expect this one to stay close to the end, with the Lions making it 3 of 4 to end the season.
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