MADISON | N0. 19 Wisconsin overcame a slow start to take down Penn State 61-57 Saturday at the Kohl Center.
Player of the game: Brevin Pritzl
Penn State head coach Pat Chambers said Pritzl was the difference in the game. He certainly was, finishing with a team-high 17 points on 5-5 shooting. Pritzl knocked down four three-pointers. Ethan Happ called Pritzl one of the best shooters he’s ever seen. Only one other Badger (Kobe King) converted from beyond the arc. As a team, they finished 5-13 from downtown. If Pritzl can build on this game, he can be an ‘X’ factor in March.
The good: Second half
This makes sense because Wisconsin has made a living not going away early. Down seven at the break, the Badgers outscored the Nittany Lions 35-24 in the second-half. They did a great job taking care of the ball committing zero turnovers. Plus, they held Penn State to 24% from the field and 11.1% from three-point range. Happ took the lid off the basket scoring eight points on 3-4 shooting. He finished with 14 points on 6-14 from the field. Head coach Greg Gard talked about what he told his team at halftime.
“Good thing nobody recorded it, but yes, we needed to grow up a little bit. We needed to be tougher…we didn’t win the 50/50 plays in the first half.”
The not so good: Slow start
Wisconsin really struggled offensively in the first-half. They looked sluggish and couldn’t find any rhythm early on. Penn State looked stronger, faster and hungrier. They were the team that “came to play.” Happ mirrored his team’s struggles with an 0-6 start from the field.
Stat of the game: 26
The bench scored 26 of the 61 points. Kobe King stepped up in the first-half with seven points. He finished with a Big Ten season-high nine points. Wisconsin relied on King early to get them going. Then it was Pritzl who went off with 14 points in the second-half. He spoke about the importance of the second-unit.
“This is about depth now. We want to be able to keep it easy on the starters…It’s guys off the bench. We’ve got to provide the energy to a load off of them so that when it comes down to crunch time, they’re ready to perform.”
What they said:
Gard on getting to 20 wins
“To be able to get this team to 20 wins, and 12 in the league, it’s a testament to them. I’m proud of the work they’ve put in.”
In case you missed it:
*The Badgers picked up their 20th win of the season. They’ve now notched 20 or more wins in 15 of the last 17 seasons.
*Wisconsin has tallied at least 12 Big Ten wins in three of head coach Greg Gard’s first four seasons.
*UW recorded its 12th-consecutive win over Penn State, dating back to 2011.
*This is Wisconsin’s eighth Big Ten win of the season when trailing in the second half.
*Happ blocked one shot to pass Jared Berggren (144, 2009-13) for 2nd place on UW’s career blocks list, with 145.
*The Badgers can take over sole possession of fourth-place in the Big Ten with a Maryland loss to visiting Michigan on Sunday.
Wisconsin (20-9, 12-6) will host Iowa (21-7, 10-7) this Thursday.