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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Josh Gasser led the way for Wisconin against the Nittany Lions with 15 points, his first double digit effort since Jan. 15.

Men's Basketball: Hot shooting leads Badgers past Penn State

The No. 15/17 Wisconsin men’s basketball team (9-5 Big Ten, 20-7 overall) rebounded from a disappointing loss at Michigan State Thursday night to beat the Penn State Nittany Lions (4-11, 12-16) Saturday, 65-55. 

In a game that looked surprisingly like the Badgers recent game at Minnesota, Wisconsin almost squandered away another double-digit lead, but were ultimatley saved by a couple of timely threes.

The Badgers were able to stretch their 14-point first-half lead all the way out to 20, 49-29, with 11:55 left in the game, but Penn State was able to cut into the Badger lead by going on 17-2 run to trim the Badger lead down to five with just over five minutes remaining.

Junior center Jared Berggren stopped the bleeding with a three to stretch the lead back to eight points, and once again with the lead down to six, Berggren responded with yet another big three to push the Badgers lead back up to nine and break the Lions’ backs.

“I thought we did a pretty good job overall in the second half and then when [Berggren] gets loose for those threes, they’re back breakers,” Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said.

One of the big reasons for the Badgers’ success Saturday was their balanced scoring.  Four out of five starters, including Berggren with his 11 points, scored in double figures.

“I think the games we’ve played our best offensively have been games where it’s been pretty spread-out scoring, you know, multiple guys in double figures,” sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. “If we can get up in double figures like that, it makes everything a little better.”

Gasser unexpectedly led the way for the Badgers in scoring with 15 points.  The last time Gasser scored more than 10 points in a game was when he scored 12 Jan. 15 against Nebraska.

“Coming into the game I was really trying to be more aggressive offensively and just trying to make plays for myself and my teammates,” Gasser said.  “I just found myself open. I was fortunate enough to knock them down and I just have got to keep playing with that aggressiveness going on.”

Junior forward Ryan Evans continued his recent hot streak, scoring 11 points and pitching in with nine rebounds.  Evans has been a model of consistency for the Badgers lately, scoring double digits now in his last six games, including 17 against both Minnesota and Michigan State.

After shooting 34 percent from the field and 21 percent from behind the arc against Michigan State, Wisconsin found its shooting stroke early, shooting 48 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range in the first half.  This is pretty surprising, considering the Badgers have had problems putting the ball in the basket consistently at home, shooting just 38 percent at the Kohl Center during Big Ten play this season.

Starting with a Jared Berggren three with 9:55 left in the first half, Wisconsin hit five consecutive threes, including three-in-a-row by Gasser to put them up by 14, 27-13.  The Badgers would not look back from there, carrying a 35-21 lead into halftime.

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The Badgers finished the game shooting 43 percent and 11-of-22 from behind the arc.

Penn State junior guard Tim Frazier, the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer, continued his success against the Badger defense, leading the way for the Lions with a game-high 20 points.

One thing that is still a concern for Wisconsin is its inability to get points in the paint.  After getting outscored by 16 down low in their 14-point loss to Michigan State, the Badgers were left wanting once again for an inside presence as they were dominated by the Lions in the paint, 32-8.

Wisconsin’s propensity to rely on outside shots is great when they are making them at consistent clip, but three-point shooting is far too unpredictable to be something that a team relies on. The Badgers must find some sort of inside game if they hope to be able to push any farther than the Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The schedule will not get any easier for the Badgers as they will travel to Iowa City Thursday to take on a pesky Hawkeye team that stunned the Badgers by a score of 72-65  at the Kohl Center earlier this year.

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