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Slow Start Dooms Penn State Hoops In 51-49 Loss To No. 11 Wisconsin

Penn State men’s basketball (9-10, 4-7 Big Ten) struggled offensively Saturday night in a low-scoring loss to Wisconsin (18-4, 9-3 Big Ten).

The Nittany Lions stayed in this game despite an ugly first half, but their late-game shots weren’t enough to head home with a win.

How It Happened

Coming off of its biggest win of the season last Monday night against Iowa, Penn State rolled into Madison on Saturday as the underdogs against No. 11 Wisconsin. In its long history, Penn State owns just two wins in Madison in 23 tries.

“Big Ten basketball” was in full effect early on, as a defensive battle dominated the headlines in the first half. Eventually, the Badgers slowly started to pull away after the Nittany Lions went over 11 minutes without scoring a single point. Producing 11 first-half turnovers didn’t help Penn State, either.

Despite their continued shooting woes, the Nittany Lions kept things close down the stretch of the first half, going on an 8-1 run to cut the Badgers’ lead to single digits before the buzzer sounded.

Both teams entered halftime after scoring their season lows for point total in a half. With Wisconsin leading 18-13, this was the lowest-scoring Big Ten first half since 2009.

Sophomore guard Dallion Johnson hit back-to-back threes to open the second half, cutting Wisconsin lead to as low as two with just over 16 minutes remaining.

Both teams shot the ball much better in the second half than in the first. A three-pointer by Greg Lee put the Nittany Lions within one halfway through the second half.

Badgers leading scorer Johnny Davis struggled as he was primarily guarded by Seth Lundy throughout the game. Davis didn’t score his first basket until 11 minutes into the second half.

Two three-pointers by Sam Sessoms and a big corner three from Greg Lee put the Nittany Lions up 40-36 with seven and a half minutes remaining.

Senior guard Brad Davison was big down the stretch for Wisconsin, hitting two threes in the final five minutes to push the Badgers lead to nine.

Seth Lundy didn’t have a big impact offensively in this one. The junior forward scored only six points, but his biggest shot was a three-pointer off of a beautiful assist by Sessoms with just under three minutes remaining.

Back-to-back field goals for Myles Dread tied things up before Wisconsin guard Tyler Wahl gave the Badgers a 51-49 lead with under 30 seconds remaining.

With multiple fouls to give, Wisconsin fouled Sessoms twice and Lundy on consecutive series to give the Nittany Lions one more possession with six seconds remaining.

Head coach Micah Shrewsberry drew up a play for Myles Dread to win the game with a last-second three-point attempt. A missed shot gave Wisconsin the win.

Sessoms led all scorers with 14, while sophomore forward Steven Crowl led Wisconsin with 13.

Takeaways

  • Offensive struggles, particularly in the first half, dominated the game in Madison on Saturday night, as both teams put up historically low scoring numbers. Wisconsin shot just 1-for-10 from three in the first half while the Nittany Lions struggled with turnovers.
  • Penn State’s bench played a big role in this one. The trio of Sam Sessoms, Greg Lee and Jaheam Cornwall combined for 27 points off the bench, including multiple big shots in the second half to give the Nittany Lions a fighting chance to pull off the upset.
  • The Nittany Lions struggled to get quality open looks in the second half, largely thanks to Wisconsin having all the answers on the defensive end of the floor. Traveling issues and a questionable final play call doomed Penn State in the last minute.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will return home to host the Michigan Wolverines at the Bryce Jordan Center for the annual “wear white” game on Tuesday, February 8. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. on ESPN2.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Devon is a junior studying sports journalism. He has the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia sports fan...IYKYK. Send your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter to @devon3134. Devon is also your friendly, neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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