The No. 19/20 Wisconsin men’s basketball team (6-3 Big Ten, 17-5 overall) will head into Saturday’s Big Ten matchup with Penn State (2-7 Big Ten, 10-12 overall) riding high after extending its winning streak to five games with a victory over No. 17 Indiana, 57-50, Thursday night.
Thursday’s win over Indiana was a little uncharacteristic of previous Badger wins as Wisconsin shot only 4-for-17 from behind the three-point line. With the Badger offense relying so heavily on making the three-point shot, it is a little surprising to see those shooting numbers attached to a Badger win. Luckily for Wisconsin, despite its shooting woes, it was able to fall back on its stifling defense to hold an Indiana team that normally scores about 80 points per game to just 50.
Defense has been a trademark of Wisconsin under head coach Bo Ryan and allows them to win games that, when one sees their shooting numbers, look like they have no business winning.
“I think it just starts with defense. That speaks for itself,” junior forward Ryan Evans said. “We were able to hold [Indiana] on a bad shooting night and find other ways to win the game. That’s really a momentum builder and that’s why we’ve been successful.”
With the win, the Badgers won their ninth straight over Indiana and have propelled themselves back into the Big Ten title race, despite a three-game losing streak earlier in the year.
“I think we had to just keep believing that we have a good team in here and we knew that,” junior center Jared Berggren said. “Despite the struggles at the start of the Big Ten, we knew what we had here. We knew we had guys that weren’t going to give up easy and we were turning things around.”
The Badgers now sit just one game behind Big Ten leading Ohio State in the standings with Saturday’s matchup at the Kohl Center looming. The Badgers can’t afford to look ahead as any game in the Big Ten could be a potential loss, even a game against a program that is struggling like Penn State.
The Nittany Lions come into Saturday’s game reeling, after dropping their twelfth game of the year, and the fifth of their last six, to No. 3 Ohio State on Wednesday night.
Even though Penn State is having a down year, this does not mean the Badgers should take them lightly as Penn State has won two of the teams’ last three matchups including a 36-33 victory in last year’s Big Ten tournament. And though the Badgers have had success on the road recently, Happy Valley is not an easy place to play, witnessed when the Lions took down then No. 25 Illinois in State College.
Penn State, despite their losing record, does boast the Big Ten’s leading scorer, junior guard Tim Frazier, who is averaging 18 points per game. He has been consistent all year long for the Lions no matter the defender, even scoring 17 on one of the nation’s best defenders, Ohio State sophomore guard Aaron Craft.
Frazier is very capable of taking over a game and putting Penn State on his back, so it will be very important for the Badgers to contain Frazier and make the rest of his teammates put the ball in the basket.
Tuesday’s tip-off between the Badgers and Nittany Lions is scheduled for 7 p.m.