Wisconsin entered Big Ten play with one simple goal — win a Big Ten championship. Senior center Frank Kaminsky wasn’t shy about it either, stating the goal very bluntly ahead of the Big Ten opener with Penn State.
“It’s time to go out and win a Big Ten championship,” senior center Frank Kaminsky said, via Badger247. “We’ve talked about it the past couple of years, but we have the right team this year to go out and do it.”
Kaminsky went out and put his money where his mouth was in the Big Ten opener, leading the Badgers (13-1, 1-0 B1G) to an 89-72 victory over the visiting Nittany Lions. He put up another double double, scoring 18 points to go along with 14 rebounds in the win.
However, he wasn’t alone as four Badgers starters would end the game in double figures. Nigel Hayes led the team with 21 points, while Sam Dekker (17) and Traevon Jackson (16) also were double-digit scorers.
Penn State’s star guard D.J. Newbill led all scorers, pouring in 29 points in the losing effort.
The win was the 14th straight against Penn State in the Kohl Center and left Wisconsin and Maryland as the only one-loss teams in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin opened the game with an 8-0 run and playing some really solid defense, however the Nittany Lions were not going to be blown out of the gym. Instead, Penn State responded with a 15-6 run of its own to make it 15-14 with 12 minutes to play in the first half.
It was just a start in what was a completely back-and-forth first half. The Badgers and Nittany Lions traded the lead eight times, with Penn State never leading by more than three. However, the Badgers found a way to work for a 43-34 lead with just over one minute to play in the half.
Both teams shot completely lights out, as Penn State shot 64 percent and Wisconsin shot 59.3 percent. The biggest difference was UW’s ability to get to the free throw line, as the Badgers knocked home 8 free throws to just three free throw attempts for the Nittany Lions.
The trio of Dekker, Hayes and Kaminsky would combine for 30 of UW’s 43 points in the first half. All three combined to shoot 12 of 19 for the half and shot 4 of 4 from the free throw line.
Wisconsin just couldn’t stop star guard D.J. Newbill, who poured in a half-high 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting. However, he was the only one doing serious damage for the Nittany Lions. UW shut everyone else down, with the next highest scorer having 5 points.
The second half started much like the first, with UW going on an 8-2 run and opening up a lead that Penn State simply couldn’t overcome. Instead of Penn State bouncing back, the Badgers turned up the defensive intensity and began pushing the Nittany Lions away from the basket.
Wisconsin also continued to shoot the ball well and get to the line, while Penn State feel in to the trap of becoming a jump shooting only team. UW shot 70 percent (14-20) in the second half, while Penn State shot just 44.8 percent in the second half.
Penn State’s leading scorer, D.J. Newbill was held to 14 points in the second half after his offensive explosion in the first half. He shot just 5 of 11 from the field in the half, and that was a great indication of how Wisconsin was able to take this game going away.
Following the 8-2 run, the Badgers continued to pour the lead on, eventually opening up a 20-point lead before a few final baskets gave us the final score.
Badger of the Game: Nigel Hayes
It was very tempting to pick Kaminsky because of his double double, but what Hayes did on the offensive side of the court was simply a clinic. He had a UW game-high 21 points and did it with super efficient offense. Hayes shot 7-9 from the field, 2-3 from three-point range and 4-5 from the free throw line.
It’s hard to get more efficient than that from anyone on the Badgers roster. About the only gripe is that Hayes didn’t stuff the stat sheet on the defensive end, but he was drawn outside a lot in this contest and Kaminsky simply ate up the glass anyway.
Key Moment: Penn State takes 3-point lead
Wisconsin made an early run in the first half, but Penn State seemed like it was going to make its own run when it went up 21-18 with 8:59 to go in the half. However, instead of allowing Penn State to extend the lead and get even more confident, UW answered right back.
The senior backcourt of Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson keyed a 5-point Badgers run and UW retook the lead without blinking an eye. It was the key to Wisconsin taking over in the game as a whole, and without that quick turnaround for a lead it may have been a much different looking half and game.
Up Next: at Northwestern; Sunday, Jan. 4 @ 7:30pm CT (BTN)