MADISON — Wisconsin held on to beat Penn State 63-60 Tuesday night at the Kohl Center to snap a three-game losing streak.
Player of the Game: Steven Crowl
This is becoming a habit for the Badgers’ 7-footer as he posted his third game of 20 or more points in his last six outings. After an off day at Indiana on Saturday, Crowl returned to being a force with 21 points and 11 rebounds for Wisconsin. That included another big second half for the junior, as he scored 13 of his points and grabbed five of rebounds after the break.
“He’s bigger, stronger and he’s more physical in the paint and he embraces the physical contact,” coach Greg Gard said of Crowl’s recent run of play. “And I think he’s getting to a point where he’s demanding the ball.”
Crowl is now averaging career highs in points (12.9), rebounds (6.8) and assists (2.8).
“There’s not a whole lot I can say,” Tyler Wahl said of his teammate. “I just think he’s turned into a grown man. He’s a force in this league now.”
The good: Tyler Wahl back
Wisconsin got its senior leader and leading scorer back after he missed the last three games with an ankle injury. He wasn’t perfect, going just 3-for-10 from the field and struggling from the free throw line, but Wahl gave the Badgers a big lift early in the second half when they erased a six-point halftime deficit. The 10-2 run to take a 40-38 lead included a Wahl steal that he took coast-to-coast for a layup through traffic. He ended up with 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.
The not so good: The good looks late
Gard knew coming in the Nittany Lions were a difficult team to defend with their bevy of outside shooters and the style of offense they ran. That played out, especially in the second half when Wisconsin defenders didn’t seem to be on the same page on a number of possessions, leaving Penn State with open shots from the outside. Luckily for the Badgers, the Nittany Lions didn’t knock enough of them down, going just 3-for-11 from beyond the arc after halftime.
Stats of the Game:
15 – That is how many points off of turnovers Wisconsin had on the night. Penn State didn’t convert a single one of the Badgers six turnovers into points at the other end.
0 – That is how many field goals the Badgers made in the final 2:59 of the game. It didn’t matter, though, as Chucky Hepburn hit some clutch free throws and took a timely charge to help them to escape.
9-4 – That is Wisconsin’s record in games decided by 10 or fewer points this year.
What They Said
Gard on whether it was a must-win situation after losing three straight:
“I don’t know if there is ever a must win. You always want to win. And no one (game) is more important than the other, because if you don’t get it done, it sits with you a little longer you don’t want them to pile up. So, I’m just happy for our guys that they got to see the fruits of the labor that they’ve been putting in and did what they need to do tonight against a good team.”
In Case You Missed It
— Wisconsin wore its player designed alternate uniforms for the first time.
— Guard Max Klesmit was forced from the game in the first half after taking a shot to the face. He went to the locker room at halftime and did not return. Gard didn’t have much information on Klesmit after the game other than saying the senior ended up needing stiches.
— Freshman Connor Essegian got the first start of his career in place of Jordan Davis. The Indiana native finished with 10 points (2-for-4 3P) and three rebounds.
— Penn State’s Andrew Funk got a look at a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds but the ball went off the back of the rim. Gard told reporters they intended to foul before he could get the shot off but were not able to.
Wisconsin (12-5, 4-3) was slated to play at Northwestern on Saturday but the Wildcats are dealing with COVID issues within their program that caused them to postpone their game Wednesday against Iowa. Gard said they would know more in the next 24 hours but he does not expect them to play Saturday in Evanston.