With the #22 Badgers likely to fall out of the top-25 after a home loss to Minnesota earlier this week, not to mention losing three of their last five, Wisconsin was in need of a road win, which has been hard to come by for the Badgers. On Sunday night, Ethan Happ scored 22 points to give Wisconsin its first road victory since November as the Badgers cruised by Penn State for a 71-52 win.
The Badgers defense, something Greg Gard says the team hangs its hat on, had an impressive performance against Penn State. The Badgers forced 16 turnovers (although the Badgers did not capitalize off of them early) and held Penn State to just twenty percent from three. Wisconsin held Penn State’s leading scorers, Lamar Stevens and Rasir Bolton, to just 11-of-28 shooting on Sunday.
The Badgers were up by as much as 16 in the first half when Davison knocked down one of his triples. The Nittany Lions closed the gap before halftime to a ten point deficit, but the Badgers came out in the second half strong like they did against Minnesota. The Badgers scored the first ten points in the second half to double their lead from 10 to 20 in just a matter of minutes.
Happ was only 10/24 from the field, an inaccurate night for the usually efficient center, but Brad Davison played the Robin role with 14 points to help, including a perfect three-of-three from beyond the arch.
Nate Reuvers finished with 11 points and five blocks in another impressive defensive performance for the sophomore center. Reuvers also had five of the ten points in the aforementioned run that essentially put the game out of reach for Penn State with over 17 minutes remaining. The big man also took two charges in addition to his rim protection.
The bench unit helped out while D’Mitrik Trice struggled (two-of-nine from the field) and Khalil Iverson was non-existent (zero field goal attempts). Brevin Pritzl hit two threes and Charles Thomas knocked down another, to combine for the other half of the three-pointers aside from Davison’s.
Wisconsin had four players with at least three assists in Trice (4), Happ (4), Davison (3), and Iverson (3). The Badgers have some of the best assist-to-turnover numbers in the country, and that continues to be something they can rely on.
Greg Gard’s squad has struggled from the free throw line all year, and tonight they struggled to get to the free throw line with just five attempts all game. Happ knocked down his pair of attempts after going just one-of-seven from the charity stripe against Minnesota.
The Badgers have a brutal stretch coming up with Purdue, Maryland, and Michigan on the schedule. Losing to Penn State was not an option as far as contention in the Big Ten goes. With the win, Wisconsin improves to 3-1 in the Big Ten and 11-4 overall.
Next, Wisconsin is back at home against Purdue on January 11th.