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Sunday, December 03, 2023
Cold shooting dooms Badgers in Big Ten Tournament


Cold shooting dooms Badgers in Big Ten Tournament


Nothing went right for the Wisconsin men's basketball team as it fell to Penn State 36-33 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament Friday night.

The Badgers entered their quarterfinal matchup fresh off a 28-point loss to Ohio State, their most lopsided defeat since 2002. Instead of regaining their confidence, however, Wisconsin will head to the NCAA tournament riding its first losing streak in two years.

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""I left the court as frustrated as I've ever been,"" senior forward Keaton Nankivil said.

Penn State entered the game have won five of its last seven games, and opened Friday's contest on a 14-0 run. After the Badgers missed their first six shots, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan benched all of his starters with fewer than 16 minutes to go in the first half.

""Sometimes you do that so you don't do something else. And the something else isn't good,"" Ryan said. ""Sometimes you've got to give guys a chance to look [at the basket] from a different angle and go from there.""

The different angles didn't help, though, and it took the Badgers more than seven minutes to record their first points with a layup by junior guard Jordan Taylor.

""With that start we were kind of clawing back the whole game. When shots aren't falling like that, it's hard to get back in it,"" freshman guard Josh Gasser said.

Wisconsin dealt its lackluster start, ending the first half on a 12-2 run to make the score 20-16 at halftime. 

The Badgers were unable to add to the run in the second half, however, and shot just 29 percent from the field, including 10 percent from beyond the arc, in the game. Even the dynamic duo of senior forward Jon Leuer and Taylor, both named to the first team All-Big Ten squad, were sub-par.

Taylor amassed 16 points on 33 percent shooting and missed both a potential game-winning and game-tying three pointer in the final 20 seconds. Leuer recorded 10 points on 31 percent shooting, extending his streak of consecutive games scoring in double figures to 38.

Beyond Leuer and Taylor, however, the Badgers struggled to find contributions.

Sophomore forwards Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz, who left the game with a knee injury midway through the second half, each recorded two points. Nankivil was silent until becoming Wisconsin's third-leading scorer with a minute left in the game after nailing a three-pointer from straightaway.

On the other side, Penn State star Talor Battle amassed nine points on his way to becoming the Nittany Lions' all-time leading scorer. Battle is the only player in Big Ten history to record 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists.

Battle has sat just two minutes in the Lions' past seven games, helping Penn State close in on its first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade.

The Badgers added to their recent history of disappointing tournament play Friday night. Wisconsin has failed to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals for three consecutive years, shooting 36 percent in their 61-57 loss to Ohio State two years ago and 29 percent in their 58-54 loss to Illinois last year.

""We're battling some adversity right now but we have a group of guys that can band together and get through this type of situation. It's going to be a matter of how hard we are willing to work,"" Leuer said.

Despite Ryan's 152-11 home record, Wisconsin has yet to prove itself as a successful postseason squad. When they take to a neutral court again come tournament time, the Badgers will need to bring their A game to silence a plethora of doubters.

""We just have to put this behind us and move forward. We still get to play for a chance to go to the Final Four and win a national championship, and that's the ultimate goal,"" Gasser said. 

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