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Penn State Hoops Drops Heartbreaker To Wisconsin 63-60

Penn State men’s basketball (12-6, 3-4 Big Ten) failed to overcome Wisconsin (12-5, 4-3 Big Ten), falling 63-60 on the road. The Nittany Lions have still yet to win at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin, going 0-19 since the stadium opened in 1998.

Jalen Pickett led the way with a 19-point, 12-rebound performance, while Andrew Funk added 16 points to the scoring column. Myles Dread also notched an 11-point showing off of the bench.

How It Happened

Camren Wynter struck first with an open three-pointer for the Nittany Lions’ first conversion of the outing. The Badgers and the Nittany Lions traded baskets early on, with both offenses rolling in the first three minutes. Unfortunately, Seth Lundy got into some early foul trouble, picking up two fouls within the first five minutes.

After the first media timeout, points were hard to come by. Wisconsin sunk a three, but Jalen Pickett responded with a fadeaway shot in the paint. Evan Mahaffey kept playing lights out on both sides of the ball, tallying a block on the defensive end and drawing a breakaway foul on the offensive end. It led to Pickett drawing a foul and making one-of-two free throws.

The Nittany Lions went on a run, extending their lead to five points led by Pickett. But, the Badgers roared back after hitting two big threes. Andrew Funk was able to slow the momentum by hitting a three of his own, but Wisconsin was able to take the lead back.

Funk hit another three and Mahaffey had a nifty layup to put Penn State back on top. However, it didn’t last long as Wisconsin quickly tied it up. Myles Dread quickly hit a three and the lead changed yet again. He and Mahaffey then extended the lead with a two-point jumper and a layup respectively.

Mahaffey also had a massive slam dunk that provided a much-needed spark for this team. Then, Funk ended the half by making two free throws, and the Nittany Lions went into the break up 36-30.

The second half didn’t start well for the Nittany Lions. Lundy and Kebba Njie found themselves in foul trouble, and they were unable to score a basket for the first five minutes of the half. The Badgers went on an 8-0 run before Pickett finally converted a jumper of his own.

Both teams went freezing cold for a long stretch, but Wisconsin began to heat up faster than the Nittany Lions. Pickett kept them in the game with a much-needed three, but the Badgers still had the advantage.

The two teams traded threes back and forth, not letting either one get too much momentum. Pickett and Funk were the only two players who scored during the first 12 minutes of the second half, showing how stout Wisconsin’s defense was. But Penn State was just as good defensively, which was part of why the two teams were tied at the under-eight media timeout.

The foul trouble became a major issue for head coach Micah Shrewsberry’s squad. Not only were the Badgers shooting free throws since the nine-minute mark, but the Nittany Lions could not stop fouling. Lundy and Mahaffey had four fouls each with under five minutes left and Wisconsin took advantage of it.

The two teams kept trading huge baskets as the clock ticked down. When Wisconsin hit a three, Dread responded. The Badgers held a one-point lead with 90 seconds left in the game before calling a timeout to adjust and draw up an offensive set. The Nittany Lions’ defense held up, leading to Shrewsberry calling a timeout with a minute left.

A controversial charge call gave Wisconsin the ball back, but Penn State’s defense held and received another offensive possession. Shrewsberry called another timeout to possibly set up the game-winning play. The Nittany Lions ran a play for Funk, who could not sink the basket. The Badgers then got fouled and made both free throws. There was one last chance, and they could not sink it. Penn State lost 63-60.

Takeaways

  • It’s no secret that Evan Mahaffey has been the spark off the bench for the Nittany Lions. But, Mahaffey’s growth is something that fans should be very excited about. It isn’t just because he is a good player, it is proof of head coach Micah Shrewsberry developing young players into impactful assets rapidly. The more he continues to develop these freshmen, the better this program is going to be long term.
  • Good teams win close games. Great teams win close games on the road. Penn State has not proven it can do either yet. In the two close games on the road (Clemson and this matchup), it could not hold on to the multiple-possession edge it had in the early going. If the Nittany Lions are going to contend for a tournament bid in March, they will have to win some of these games down the stretch.
  • Where is the offense not named Jalen Pickett? Seth Lundy had his worst game of the season, Camren Wynter disappointed against the Badgers’ tough defense, and none of the freshmen have proven to be the scoring threat that is needed off the bench to be successful. The lack of offense is concerning, especially when the team is relying on a streaky Andrew Funk to perform well. Someone has to step up because the season will end in disappointment if no one does.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will return to Happy Valley to battle Nebraska on Saturday, January 21. The game, which is also the Coaches vs. Cancer game, will tip-off at 2:15 pm and air on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey is a senior from Annapolis, Maryland, majoring in secondary education and minoring in social justice in education. When he is not writing for the blog, he enjoys rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor", and yes mom, actually doing school work. If you would like to talk about sports or "Survivor", the best way to reach out is on Twitter @theowenabbey. All other compliments may be sent to [email protected]

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