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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Nankivil never wavers in 22-point outing

As has been common this year, Jon Leuer stood at the top of the scoring performances in Wisconsin’s 76-66 victory over Penn State Sunday evening.

That game-leading 22 points tied with one other player though, and it wasn’t point guard Jordan Taylor.

It was Keaton Nankivil.

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For just the third time in his career, the senior forward posted a 20-point game for the Badgers’ men’s basketball team. Nankivil stopped just shy of a perfect game from the field, finishing with eight of nine attempts falling through the net, including all five attempts from behind the arc.

Among his shots from three-point range, Nankivil even produced a four-point play when Penn State guard Tim Frazier was called for too much contact in the second half.

“We gave him open shots, and that’s not really what you want to do with him because he’s a very good perimeter shooter,” Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis said of Nankivil. “He’s been in a bit of a slump lately; we just didn’t get on and get into him like we talked about doing.”

After hitting 3-3 attempts from the arc against Michigan State on Feb. 6, Nankivil fell into a bit of a scoring drought from three-point land, hitting just 4-20 three-pointers over the next three games against Iowa, Ohio State and Purdue.

Against the Nittany Lions, Nankivil shot well despite sustaining a minor injury to his ankle in the first half. About six minutes into the game, Nankivil converted his third three-pointer, and as he came down from his jump, he landed awkwardly on the foot of forward Andrew Jones.

By that time, Nankivil’s three three-pointers helped Wisconsin leap to a 17-8 lead.

But after moving gingerly on the ensuing PSU possession, Nankivil exited the floor, only to return shortly after. He was then substituted out of the game again and was taken into the locker room with three minutes remaining in the half.

But any doubts about Nankivil’s tweaked ankle were put to rest early in the second period, when Nankivil converted the four-point play just three minutes in. He finished the rest of the game and experienced his only missed shot about a minute and a half later.

“He’s a rhythm shooter, and when he gets in a rhythm, he’s as good as anybody,” Leuer said, who shot 8-14 from the field and contributed 10 rebounds. “He got aggressive tonight, too, so he was just catching and placing, putting pressure on the defense.”

“If you want a three, you fly it to him.”

The Nittany Lions felt the brunt of Nankivil’s axe particularly because Wisconsin’s offense ran so smoothly. Defenders couldn’t keep up with Nankivil when he ran down the baseline, through traffic underneath the hoop, to receive the ball with a wide open look from the wing.

Other times, his teammates drove to the basket and simply kicked it back out to an unguarded Nankivil, who hit all three of his jumpers from outside the paint.

“Well, he’s an opportunistic young man,” UW head coach Bo Ryan said. “… He found himself open from penetration, from kick outs from Jon Leuer or somebody in the post. He’s a guy who knows how to play on his feet and stare it down. He can extend defenses and he’s always been like that.”

The Badgers failed to win the other two times Nankivil scored at least 20 points this season, both occurring against Purdue. On Sunday, though, with two players in the frontcourt scoring 22 points, the UW offense never quite faltered, as it shot .543 from the field and .533 from behind the arc.

“The way they can spread the court and knock down shots, is pretty rare for most teams,” freshman guard Josh Gasser said of UW’s frontcourt. “It makes it a lot more fun for everyone else… everyone makes shots. They get into a rhythm there, and everyone gets more comfortable in our offense and it’s tough to guard.”

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