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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Men’s Basketball: Badgers snap three-game skid, survive Penn State 63-60

With Tyler Wahl returning to the starting lineup, Badgers outlast Nittany Lions
Justin Mielke/The Badger Herald

Putting a stop to their three-game losing streak, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (12-5) defeated Penn State (12-6) with a final score of 63-60 at the Kohl Center Jan. 17.

Prior to the game, the Nittany Lions had yet to scratch the win column in 18 consecutive contests against the Badgers in the Kohl Center.

Fueled by superstar Jalen Pickett and sharpshooter Andrew Funk, the Nittany Lions certainly caught the Badgers at the right time.


But, on the evening of the 25th anniversary of the first game ever played in the Kohl Center, the Nittany Lions would need to wait until February for a chance to conquer Greg Gard’s group. Here’s how the action unfolded.

Men’s Basketball: Badgers drop three straight, struggle to contain Hoosiers

First Half

Fresh off a grueling three-game losing streak, Wisconsin entered a borderline must-win situation.

“There’s no nights off in this conference,” Steven Crowl said during the postgame press conference. “So I think for all of us we felt like it was a must win and we wanted to win this.”

After missing three games with an ankle injury, Tyler Wahl, UW’s senior anchor and most versatile asset, returned to the hardwood. Without his passing ability and smooth touch on the low block, the Badger offense appeared stagnant during his absence.

Almost immediately, Badger fans could sense Wahl’s impact. Alongside Crowl, Chucky Hepburn, Max Klesmit and Connor Essegian, Wisconsin’s halfcourt offense seemed fluid and functional.

Similar to Saturday’s match in Bloomington, neither squad appeared entirely overwhelming during the first period of regulation. Crowl, who scored just five total points Saturday, canned three field goals in under 10 minutes of action. With Penn State’s tallest defender listed at 6’10’’ and more attention directed toward Wahl, Crowl simply dominated the paint.

Given the Nittany Lion’s long range shooting stature (11.1 3-pt/gm, first in Big Ten) and discipline concerning turnovers (8.6 to/gm, first in NCAA), Wisconsin would need to counter an inevitable scoring barrage. Luckily for UW, seven different Badgers scored in the first half, and the red and white allowed just three giveaways.

Penn State’s Pickett, who ranks 79th in points per game (17.6), showcased his strength during the opening stretch. At 209 lbs, the 6’4’’ guard backed down his defender to the cylinder and either drew a foul or kicked to an open man, typically Funk, on the perimeter.

This scheme, coupled with bench contributions from Myles Dread and Evan Mahaffey, propelled the Nittany Lions to a six-tally edge by intermission. At the break, PSU lead, 36-30, with 14 bench points and five of its 13 field goals coming from deep.

Unfortunately, Klesmit, Wisconsin’s scrappy perimeter defender and hardest working player, exited Tuesday’s bout after taking an elbow to the nose toward the conclusion of the first half. He did not return afterward.

Men’s Basketball: Badgers fall to Spartans for second consecutive conference defeat

Second Half

Within just four minutes after halftime, Wisconsin transformed a six-tally deficit into a two-point advantage. Backed by downhill play and aggressiveness inside, UW’s 8-0 scoring surge was encapsulated by Wahl’s coast-to-coast layup after pickpocketing Camren Wynter in the lane.

As if on queue, Pickett and Funk responded with a flurry of buckets. The tandem accounted for all 17 of Penn State’s points through 16 minutes of the closing frame, with Pickett destroying the defense on the interior and Funk scorching the Badgers from the outside.

Up until the 2:59 mark of the second half, the Big Ten foes traded blow-after-blow like Drago and Balboa. Right when one squad pulled forward ever-so-slightly, the other responded with a crucial score or tough look with a defender blanketed over the top of the shot attempt.

Then, in his first career start donning the red and white, Connor Essegian drilled a three off a designed screen on the left wing to pull the Badgers ahead, 61-57. Penn State’s Dread nailed a three on the following possession, and it appeared as if PSU’s outside attack would prove too stout to overcome.

Surprisingly, the Nittany Lions failed to score during the final 2:38 of regulation. And, perhaps on the play of the game, Hepburn drew a charge on a driving Pickett with 53 ticks to spare, deflating Penn State’s momentum. Funk released a pair of pretty decent three-point looks, including one off a staggered screen and another late-game heave, but UW held their ground.

For Wisconsin, Crowl notched his second career double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Essegian recorded 10 points in his first start. Hepburn pitched in with 13 tallies, and Wahl also reached double figures in his return.

On the opposite side, Pickett flirted with a triple-double (19 points, 12 boards and six assists), and Funk accounted for 16 points off perfect efficiency from the charity stripe (5/5).

Men’s Basketball: Badgers drop first Big Ten game of season

In a game with identical rebounding totals, similar efficiency, eight ties and eight lead changes, Wisconsin capitalized off Penn State’s uncharacteristic turnover margin. With 15 points off giveaways, Gard’s group played to its strengths on Tuesday night.

“That’s a tough team to guard, completely different from what we’ve seen thus far,” Gard said after the final buzzer. “Really proud of our guys and how they’ve continued to persevere, stay the course, trust everything that was going on and find a way.”

Looking ahead, the Jan. 21 game against the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston was postponed due to COVID-19 health and safety regulations.

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