STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – Talor Battle scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime and Penn State turned up the defensive pressure in the second half to upset No. 17 Wisconsin 56-52 on Saturday.
Jeff Brooks had 12 points and Andrew Jones grabbed 14 rebounds to the help the Nittany Lions (12-8, 5-4 Big Ten) overcome a 13-point deficit in the first half to beat the Badgers for the first time since 2003.
Jon Leuer had 18 points to lead Wisconsin (15-5, 5-3), and Jordan Taylor had 16 before fouling out.
Go-to guy Battle led the offensive charge – as usual. His 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with 10:51 left gave Penn State its first lead of the game.
Then with 1:16 left Battle drove the lane before feeding Jones for a layup for a 50-44 lead. Battle finished it off by going 5 of 6 from the line over the final 25 seconds.
It was Penn State’s third straight win at home over a ranked Big Ten opponent.
With four senior starters led by Battle and Brooks, coach Ed DeChellis’ crew hopes his team is making enough waves to make its first NCAA tournament since 2001.
Things looked bleak after the Nittany Lions fell behind 22-9 at 7:39 of the first half off Taylor’s 3 with about 3 seconds left on the shot clock. The Badgers boast the best defense in the league, allowing just 59 points a game entering Saturday.
But that defense still wasn’t enough against Penn State.
Battle, Penn State’s gritty 6-foot senior, finished 7 of 16 shooting after a 1-for-5 start in the first half. His open 3-pointer off the inbounds riled up the 14,200-plus at the Jordan Center, the biggest crowd of the season.
But Battle wasn’t done.
With Wisconsin threatening to regain the momentum by slowing the game down to a comfortably methodical pace, Battle’s 3 from about 30 feet put the Nittany Lions up for good, 43-42 with 4:51 left, and Brooks followed with another trey about 30 seconds later to force the Badgers to call timeout with a four-point deficit.
Defensively, Penn State had Wisconsin rushing shots that often missed the hoop. The Badgers shot just 32 percent in the second half after hitting 54 percent in the first. The few open looks that Leuer and Taylor did have after halftime rimmed in and out the basket.
DeChellis and his staff wore white sneakers and headbands in honor of Coaches vs. Cancer Day, while Wisconsin counterpart Bo Ryan sported styling bright red sneakers.
But it was Battle, Brooks and Jones who made the biggest statements on the court.