Wisconsin and close ballgames at the Bryce Jordan Center? Shocking, right?
On Wednesday it was more of the same, as the Badgers survived an ugly stretch of shooting in the first half en route to a 55-47 victory. The win would push Wisconsin to 24-2 on the season and 12-1 in Big Ten play. The 24-2 record continues to match what took place in the 2006-07 season, as the programâ€™s best-ever start to a season.
It shouldnâ€™t be that surprising though, as Wisconsin has a long history of winning close games in the final minutes. Something assistant coach Lamont Paris pointed out earlier this week (h/t @miller_zack):
Wisconsin assistant coach Lamont Paris talked about the #Badgers ability to win close games at practice on Monday pic.twitter.com/FDcrxQepQZ
— Zack Miller (@miller_zack) February 19, 2015
A lot of it was down to Sam Dekker equal to the one-on-one scoring duel between D.J. Newbill and himself. Dekker would finish the night with a career-high 22 points, while Newbill would put in 29 of his teamâ€™s 47 points.
The difference would come from a Badgers squad pitching in in a much greater fashion than Newbill would get from the rest of the Nittany Lions. Senior center Frank Kaminsky poured in 16 points to go along with nine rebounds and Nigel Hayes added nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
UW on the other hand set out to do what they needed to do on the road â€” stop everyone not named D.J. Newbill from going off. Mission Accomplished.
Penn State would have no other player top seven points (Brandon Taylor), and the Badger held Penn State to just 38.9 percent shooting from the field.
One wouldnâ€™t know it by the final scoreline or the fact that UW shot 39.2 percent from the field, butÂ Wisconsin started off hot, shooting 8-for-11 from the field early on.
Sam Dekker along with Frank Kaminsky were dominating things (14 of UWâ€™s first 20 points) and all was going right for the Badgers.
UW up 20-10 w/ 11:07 to play in 1st half. Dekker & Kaminsky w/ 7 points each & UW has 6 assists on 8 made FGâ€™s
— MadTown Badgers (@MTBadgers) February 19, 2015
However, after the first round of subs came in the lights went off for the Badgers.
Bronson Koenig hit a jumper with 13:30 left in the first half to put Wisconsin up 19-8 and looking like it would be a blowout. Instead, the Badgers would go 9 minutes and 40 seconds without hitting another field goal.
Normally that would spell serious trouble, however the Badgers defense came up big as well.Â Penn State guard D.J. Newbill was the story of the first half for Penn State, scoring 16 of his XX points to keep his team in the game.
The rest of the Nittany Lions shot a combined 3 of 17 from the field in the first half alone, a number that Wisconsin knew it had to produce to win this road game.
In fact, the scoreline stood at 20-10 following a Nigel Hayes made free throw with 12:29 to go and only a single field goal would be scored between the two teams over the course of nearly seven minutes.
After the field goal drought was broken by Nigel Hayesâ€™ jumper with 3:51 left to play, the Badgers got a lift from Dekker. He managed both of Wisconsinâ€™s field goals down the final three minutes of the half, putting in a layup and adding a deep three pointer, as the Badgers would limp in to the half with a 31-24 lead.
Whatever was said or done at the half apparently woke Wisconsin up, as they came out hotter than they were for most of the first half.
The key may have been the ability to pound the ball inside and open up the offense with the knowledge that Penn State would collapse on anything going on in the paint.Â Wisconsin got some big time teamwork on the night, with 12 assists on 20 made field goals for the night.
It also got some big time offensive rebounding, grabbing nine offensive boards and turning them in to a 10-2 advantage in second chance points.
While Dekker helped the Badgers early on in the half, it was national Player of the Year candidate Frank Kaminsky who would put the Badgers on his back late in the contest.
After a Dekker dunk made it 48-34 with 6:26 to play, Wisconsin went a bit cold and Penn State attempted to heat up outside of Newbill. Only, it was Newbill who nearly made the comeback possible.
He hit a number of crazy shots and with 4:08 to play the Badgers were down to a 48-43 lead. Thatâ€™s when Kaminsky took over, putting up five of the Badgersâ€™ final seven points while also getting a steal and a key rebound.
With the win, the Badgersâ€™ magic number moves to two wins for the share of a Big Ten title. Up next for UW is a home date with Border Battle rivals Minnesota on Feb. 21 at 11am on ESPN.