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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Downtrodden Nittany Lions next test for UW

mbball: Rob Wilson will look to carry the momentum from his breakout performance against Michigan when the Badgers face Penn State.

Downtrodden Nittany Lions next test for UW

After narrowly avoiding their first multi-game losing streak of the season against Michigan, the Badgers shift their focus to their second meeting of the season with Penn State Sunday.

Wednesday night Wisconsin turned in one of its least effective offensive performances of the season, shooting only 34 percent from the field, their second-lowest figure of the season.

But instead of allowing their offensive effort to discourage them, the Badgers are taking pride in how they pulled out a win under the circumstances.

""The thing that stood out the most was the way we stuck through it and battled through everything that we were fighting against,"" junior forward Keaton Nankivil said.

When a team has such trouble getting points on the board, the result of the contest can hinge on a team's defensive effort, and according to associate coach Greg Gard, that is how Wisconsin won the game.

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""The job we did defensively [was important],"" Gard said. ""I think that's the only way you have a chance to stay in a game like that and have a chance in the last five minutes.""

Now the Badgers have a chance for another home victory Sunday against Penn State.

After making a surprise run at an NCAA tournament berth last season and ultimately winning the National Invitation Tournament, the Nittany Lions struggled out of the gate this season, especially in conference play. Winless in the Big Ten after five games, Penn State's problems this season have come at both ends of the court.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions allow the third-least amount of points per game, but that is more a product of their pace than their defensive ability. In field goal percentage defense, Penn State ranks ninth in the conference.

Offensively, Penn State is not any better, ranking eighth in the conference in field goal percentage, and 10th in points per game. The Nittany Lions struggle from long distance as well, ranking eighth in the conference.

Wisconsin will, however, need to contain junior point guard Taylor Battle, whose 18.4 points per game rank second in the conference. Head coach Bo Ryan knows Battle well from his time coaching Team USA at the 2009 Men's World University Games. Battle was not expected to be a key component of that squad last summer, but impressed the coaching staff to make the team.

""He made that team by beating out some high-profile guards,"" Gard said. ""His performance sent a few other guys, that thought they were going to make the team, home.""

The Badgers prevented Battle from becoming too much of a factor during the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season, holding Battle to 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting. But Battle is capable of turning in dominating offensive performances, as the guard has scored 20-plus points seven times this season, and 30-plus points three times.

""He's a guy that can carry a team,"" Gard said. ""When you allow him to get confidence like that and get going, it's very hard to get him out of his rhythm.""

UW won the first game between the two squads this season in State College, 63-46, and with the two teams playing for the second time against one another, they know what to expect time around.

""We know what they're going to do, they know what we're going to do,"" Gard said. ""It's just a matter of who's going to take care of those 75-80 possessions Sunday afternoon.""

The contest tips off at 1:30 p.m. at the Kohl Center and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

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