Penn State Basketball has historically struggled to beat Wisconsin no matter the location. Saying that the Nittany Lions struggle in Madison would be the biggest understatement of all time.
The program is now this game 2-23 all time at Wisconsin and 0-19 at the Kohl Center, following Tuesday night’s heartbreaking 63-60 loss to the Badgers.
This was a winnable game and in fact Penn State Basketball entered ranked No. 51 in the Net Rankings and Wisconsin No. 66.
Winning road games in the Big ten is always a challenge. There is always the obstacle of tough environments and home whistles that can often decide games.
Here are some takeaways from the game and what is next for the Nittany Lions.
One sided whistle
I’m not normally the guy who blames the refs when it comes to an uneven whistle but the game against the Badgers was about as bad as it gets.
The Nittany Lions finished with 21 fouls to just 13 for Wisconsin.
It wasn’t just the quantity called but rather when certain fouls were called. Jalen Pickett and other Penn State Basketball guards continually got smacked when they went inside and there were no calls. Meanwhile, Wisconsin was getting a lot of hand check fouls on the other end that Nittany Lion fans could only dream of getting.
Kebba Njie and Camren Wynter also found themselves in foul trouble and the team had 20 on the game.
The biggest issue was the inconsistency. If the referees called the touch fouls on both ends at least we as fans could live with that and understand it was just going to be that type of game. Same goes for if they let the physicality carry over from the first half into the second half.
However, such is life in the Big 10 and all we can do is hope to get some calls in the friendly confines of the Bryce Jordan Center.
Penn State Basketball has been one of, if not the best teams in the country this season in protecting the basketball. That can partially be credited to being one of the oldest teams in college basketball with 5 seniors in their 7-man rotation. That was not the case on Tuesday night.
In Madison, the Nittany Lions turned the ball over 10 times compared to just 5 for the Badgers.
While that number doesn’t seem too terrible it was more the timing of the miscues. In a game that was a one possession game for almost the entirety of the second half, the charges and bad passes kept Penn State from being able to get into a rhythm on offense.
Penn State Basketball outshot the Badgers from the field and rebounding was about even. So, the 5 turnover deficit ended up being one of the deciding factors in this one.
Opening Second Half Woes continue
This is becoming a concerning trend over the last few games and has been the difference between wins and losses in Big Ten play.
Penn State Basketball led by 6 against No. 1 Purdue at the half, only to allow the Boilermakers to go on a 12-0 run in the opening 3 minutes of the second half. Likewise, the team was in slight danger against Indiana when they allowed the Hoosiers to cut the lead to 5 points before the Nittany Lions got hot behind the arc.
The same thing happened on Tuesday night against the Badgers.
Penn State Basketball played well in the first half and found themselves up 36-30 at the break. The Badgers didn’t shoot the lights out to open the half, but Penn State was somehow worse. In the first 8 minutes of the second half Wisconsin found itself on a 12-2 run.
It isn’t necessarily care about the 12 points; it is the fact that Penn State could only get 2 points to open the half and turned the ball over more frequently than they do the rest of the half. The poor starts to second halves continues to be an issue that has seemingly led directly to wins and losses.
With more Quad 1 games on the horizon, this is something that will need to be corrected if Penn State wants to continue their chase for the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State Basketball will return home to take on Nebraska 9-9 (2-5) on Saturday at the BJC. The game will tip off at 2:15 pm ET on BTN. This is a must win for the Nittany Lions with the Cornhuskers being a Quad 3 team. Penn State remains on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament and Saturday’s game is more of avoiding the bad loss than anything else. Hopefully the Nittany Lions can get a friendly whistle playing at home.