After getting upset last week in Happy Valley, the No. 19 University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (13-5, 7-4 Big Ten) hopes to bounce back in their second consecutive game Tuesday against Penn State (6-7, 3-6).
Wisconsin squandered a seven-point first-half lead in last week’s 81–71 loss. After failing to increase the margin, the Nittany Lions opened an 11-point lead in the second half. Though Wisconsin relied heavily on the production from former Lakeville North High School forwards Nathan Reuvers and Tyler Wahl, the duo’s 31 combined points were not enough, as the rest of the Badgers shot a dismal 16-for-54 in the loss.
The Nittany Lions are playing their best basketball as of late, with wins in three of their last four matchups and their only loss being an 83–79 heartbreaker to Ohio State. One factor in Penn State’s early-season struggles was the COVID-19 pandemic. Penn State was forced to cancel four games during their disappointing five-game losing streak due to COVID-19 concerns.
Since the outbreak, Penn State has used their explosive offense against Big Ten opponents, averaging 75.5 points per game. Penn State’s biggest offensive strength is its array of weapons offensively. The Nittany Lions attack opposing defenses in all areas and have four players averaging double-figure points this season.
To avoid consecutive losses, Wisconsin will need to slow down junior guard Myreon Jones. Jones, the 6-foot-3-inch guard from Birmingham, AL, has been a handful for opposing defenses, averaging 15.8 points per game.
Wisconsin struggled to find answers to slowing down Jones on Saturday, as he finished with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Expect a variety of Badgers to matchup on Jones to disrupt the guard’s comfort level.
A player to watch for the Badgers will be senior forward Micah Potter. Potter, Wisconsin’s second-leading scorer at just over 12 points per game, struggled to find rhythm Saturday. Potter regressed after his dominant 23-point performance last Wednesday against Maryland, only scoring six points in 16 minutes Saturday. Look for Wisconsin to try to get Potter going early in Tuesday’s matchup.
There is no margin for error if Wisconsin wants to stay in contention to repeat as Big Ten champions. Dropping another game to an unranked Penn State team will unequivocally end their championship aspirations. With six of their last nine games coming against ranked opponents, Wisconsin cannot afford to blow another lead. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night.