Men's Basketball

Four Takeaways: Happ heats up, Trice stays cold as Badgers stop skid with much needed road win over Penn State

Sophomore Brad Davison continued his hot shooting of late, hitting all three of his three pointers and scoring 14 points on nine shots in the win.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

After a humiliating home defeat to rival Minnesota three days earlier, No. 22 Wisconsin traveled to Happy Valley to take on a struggling Penn State team, and came away with a 71-52 victory that was just the tonic it needed. The Badgers improved to 3-1 in Big Ten play, (11-4 overall), as the Nittany Lions (0-4 Big Ten, 7-8 overall) posted another listless performance in a rebuilding year. Here are The Daily Cardinal's main takeaways from Sunday’s action.

Happ contributes in several areas

Star center Ethan Happ took eight of the Badgers’ first 10 shots, making only two of them. As a result, the Nittany Lions were able to hang around and keep things close. The senior slowly found his groove over time, ending up with 22 points on 10 of 24 shooting. In a typically workmanlike display, he added eight rebounds and four assists. He also knocked down both of his free throws. Despite the small sample size, this is an encouraging sign following Minnesota’s effective use of the “Hack-a-Happ” strategy.

Secondary scoring options shows up 

While Happ led the team in scoring in the victory over Penn State, Wisconsin’s role players also pitched in significantly. Sophomore forward Nate Reuvers contributed in numerous ways, scoring 11 points while adding one rebound, two assists, and five blocked shots. In the 59-52 loss to the Gophers Thursday, the Badgers’ bench only mustered eight points. They were more assertive against PSU. Senior forward Charles Thomas IV had seven points, including a rare three-pointer in the first half, and junior guard Brevin Pritzl knocked down two triples of his own. This scoring balance will be vital down the stretch, particularly when star players have underwhelming performances, as point guard D’Mitrik Trice did yet again Sunday. 

Badgers win turnover battle

Wisconsin stepped up its play defensively and came away with its second highest steals total this season — nine — while forcing 16 turnovers from the Nittany Lions. Despite an off shooting night, Trice contributed three steals, while guards Kobe King and Khalil Iverson chipped in with two apiece. On the other side of the ball, the Badgers were more responsible than they’ve been in recent weeks. They turned the ball over just seven times, after posting double-digit turnovers in four out of the last five contests. Keeping up that turnover margin will be instrumental to winning some tight battles in conference play.

Trice continues cold streak

Perhaps the lone negative from the Badgers’ comfortable win was the continuation of Trice’s shooting woes. The guard shot just two of nine from the field, tying his lowest mark for field goals made in a game this season. Even more worryingly, Trice has continued to struggle from three-point land after a blazing hot start (58.3 percent from three through the first eight games). Since the start of December, the sophomore has shot just 31.5 percent from deep (12 of 38) and has made multiple three-point field goals in just two of the Badgers last six games. Trice is struggling somewhat with his shot selection as well — he’s shooting too frequently in the beginning of the shot clock — but he’s also missing some clean looks. Wisconsin will hope he bounces back to his early season form sooner rather than later.

Next up is a home game against Purdue Friday. Tip is set for 8 pm. 

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