The Wisconsin men's basketball team (7-3 Big Ten, 18-5 overall) got its sixth straight win Tuesday night and now stand alone in second place in the Big Ten, but it did not come as easy as maybe one would have suspected against a 12-loss Penn State team.
Penn State came out like a team with nothing to lose in the first half, giving the Badgers all they could handle and taking a 23-17 lead into halftime.
Despite taking the Badgers' best shot, Penn State would not go down without a fight. Leading the charge for the Lions in the second half was junior guard Tim Frazier. The Big Ten's second-leading scorer answered every time it looked like the Badgers were going to pull away, scoring 17 of his game-high 21 in the second half.
With the Wisconsin lead cut down to 40-38, senior guard Jordan Taylor once again stepped up for the Badgers and hit a big three to put the Badgers back up by five. Taylor and the rest of the Badgers hit their free throws down the stretch and Badgers were able to hold on for a 52-46 win.
Taylor finished with a team-high 18 points, with most of them coming in crunch time as he scored 13 of the Badgers last 16 points.
The Badgers' shooting woes reared their ugly head once again in the first half of the game as the Badgers missed 19 of their first 26 shots, including nine of their first 11 three-pointers. Reliance on the outside shot combined with anemic shooting kept the Badgers in single digits for the first 16 minutes of the game.
Penn State on the other hand exploited the normally sound Badger defense in the first half, shooting 46 percent from the field.
Penn State also dominated Wisconsin on the glass as the Nittany Lions outrebounded the Badgers by seven in the first half.
The leading scorer for Penn State in the first half was sophomore guard Jermaine Marshall, scoring 10 points on 5-7 shooting.
Wisconsin turned things around in the second half by making an early emphasis to get the ball inside. By pounding the paint, the Badgers got easy inside shots and regained the lead. Junior center Jared Berggren and junior forward Ryan Evans were instrumental in the Badger comeback, scoring Wisconsin's first 10 second-half points.
The Badgers also shot the ball much better in the second half overall, making 10 of their 22 second-half shots.
Wisconsin returned to form defensively as well, holding Penn State to 7-of-26 shooting.
The Badgers will now gear up for a showdown at the Kohl Center with Big Ten leader Ohio State at 1:00p.m. Saturday. If the Badgers are able to win this game, they will take the outright lead in the Big Ten standings.
One thing is for certain, the Badgers will have to be much more consistent offensively and defensively if they are going to have any chance of beating a team with as much offensive firepower as the Buckeyes.