Greg Gard succulently summed up his team’s performance in its 83-58 loss to Ohio State Saturday afternoon.
“It seemed like we were lifeless for a large part of the first half.”
Wisconsin (0-1 Big Ten, 3-5 overall) allowed OSU to shoot 78 percent from the field in the game’s first 20 minutes. The Buckeyes had no trouble finding open looks and shot 87.5 percent from three compared to UW’s 28.6 percent mark from deep.
The result of such a discrepancy was a 23-point halftime deficit for the Badgers. And while they played OSU to nearly a stalemate in the second half, Wisconsin still suffered its worst home loss since the Kohl Center opened in 1998.
UW has no time to dwell on its struggles, however, as Monday night it meets yet another conference foe before the New Year begins. Knocking off Penn State (1-0, 7-2) on the road will be no easy task.
The Nittany Lions are returning all five of their starters from last season, and each one is averaging double-figure points. Sophomore guard Tony Carr is PSU’s high man, scoring just over 20 points per game. Redshirt sophomore Mike Watkins helps man the rim down-low for Penn State and is averaging 11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds. Watkins also has 26 of the Nittany Lions’ 54 blocked shots this year, a total that has PSU ranked third nationally in total block shots.
Sophomore forward Lamar Stevens has similarly been a force for Penn State and is averaging 15.2 points and 6.7 rebounds on the inside. Stevens led PSU in its 77-73 road win over Iowa with 22 points, five rebounds and two blocks and will likely work in tandem with Watkins to bully a struggling Badger frontcourt.
While UW is led by redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ, the power forward spot for the Badgers has been a revolving door. Andy Van Vliet, Aleem Ford, Charles Thomas III and Nathan Reuvers have all struggled at times this season and none of them have looked overly impressive.
Wisconsin has a 35-10 advantage in its series history with the Nittany Lions, and it has won 22 straight games against Penn State when scoring at least 60 points.
But these Badgers are a vastly different team then those that have battled against PSU previously.
Its youthful roster needs to adjust or it will drop its six game in its last seven chances.
“We gotta regroup fast,” Gard said.