For another year, Wisconsin will finish Big Ten play as one of the top four teams in the conference standings.
That became a certainty on Sunday afternoon when No. 14 Wisconsin held off a late comeback from Penn State, defeating the Nittany Lions on the road with a 71-66 final, giving the Badgers their seventh consecutive victory and putting them in a tie for second place with No. 18 Michigan State.
The Badgers have had difficulty guarding the perimeter this season, and that was apparent against the the Penn State back court. Tim Frazier was plagued with three first half fouls, but D.J. Newbill was able to carry the load, scoring a game-high 23 points, attack the basket for layups, or at the very least second-chance opportunities. Frazier cracked double figures with under 20 seconds to play with back-to-back buckets in the paint, the first of which cut the lead to two, 68-66, with 18 seconds to play. Though Wisconsin was able to counter with free throw shooting — 5-of-6 from the line — down the stretch.
The Wisconsin frontline got a combined 16 points from Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, but just like its opponent’s guards, the Wisconsin back court stepped up on Sunday afternoon. Penn State had continually threatened in the second half, but more times than not, Ben Brust would respond with a bucket to respond. He scored 11 of his 14 after halftime while Traevon Jackson connected on four free throws to ice the win.
While Wisconsin didn’t get the same offensive production from its front court and also allowed the Nittany Lions to consistently get to the basket, the Badgers were able to leave with a win by taking care of the basketball — eight turnovers (four in each half) — and moving the ball on offense — assisting on 15 of 22 field goals made. They were also aided by Penn State’s 1-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin hosts its final regular season home game of the season on Wednesday before heading to Nebraska on Sunday, a game in which the Cornhuskers can pad their tournament resume.