Something scary always seems to happen when the Wisconsin Badgers travel to Penn State for a basketball game. It almost happened again on Monday night as Wisconsin blew a 17-point lead only to hang on for a 64-63 win over the Nittany Lions.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak by the Badgers and gave UW its first win in Big Ten play this season. It was a nice rebound after getting blown out by Ohio State on Saturday in the Kohl Center.
Wisconsin was up by as many as 17 in second half, but foul trouble for some of the biggest names on the team and Penn State’s ability to hit anything and everything made it in to a game. UW got big nights from two unlikely contributors on the score sheet.
Junior forward Khalil Iverson led the Badgers with 16 points and reserve forward Nathan Reuvers added 11 points in the winning effort. Both were needed as Ethan Happ battled foul trouble and a bad night on the defensive end of the court. He finished the game with 9 points and 10 rebounds, but was just 3 of 12 shooting on the night.
Penn State countered with a great night from its big man, as Mike Watkins poured in a game-high 22 points to lead three Nittany Lions in double figures.
In the end, Penn State’s furious comeback just wasn’t enough though as UW made enough of its free throws to keep the lead and force Penn State in to desperation mode in the final minute of the game.
The Badgers will stay in Pennsylvania for a game on Wednesday at Temple. Tip is scheduled for 6pm CT and will be shown on ESPNU.
Iverson Finally Woke Up
Khalil Iverson has been one of the more frustrating players to watch so far in 2017. He’s shown all the flashes of athleticism we saw his first two seasons in a Badgers uniform, but he hasn’t been able to finish around the rim and been a defensive liability at times. That wasn’t the case at all against Penn State.
Iverson finished the game with 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half. That was good news, because Happ was struggling to find open looks on the offensive end and couldn’t keep pace with Mike Watkins on the other end. Happ was in foul trouble too, and Iverson capitalized on being in the right positions to receive passes from Happ all night long.
Wisconsin needs to see more of the kind of consistency they saw out of Iverson tonight if they want to continue winning games in conference play.
Curse of Bryce Jordan Center Nearly Happened Again
Even the best of the Badgers teams we’ve seen over the last decade have gone to Penn State and had massive trouble against the Nittany Lions. Early on it looked like the curse was going to rear its ugly head, but then a big spurt on offense gave the Badgers a 17-point lead in the second half.
Anyone that has paid attention to how games go at the BJC with the Badgers and Nittany Lions knew it wasn’t going to be over though. That’s exactly what happened, as Penn State whittled away at the lead and eventually were within a bucket with just under 2 minutes to play.
However, unlike in years past, the Badgers found a way to scrap and claw victory from the jaws of defeat. Whether that was via bad officiating at times (see ball on the end line and Brad Davison fouling out for no reason), ungodly shooting or loose balls bouncing away from the Badgers, somehow all of it was able to be put to side.
Wins like this can really galvanize a young team, let’s see how the Badgers respond when they face another tough test against Temple on Wednesday night.
Youth Finally Served to Opponents
We’ve seen pops of brilliance from the Badgers foursome of freshmen — Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, Kobe King and Nathan Reuvers — but we haven’t seen that group take over the game. That stopped on Tuesday night, as Reuvers put up double figures (11) and the trio gave UW 24 points combined (8 points for King and 5 from Ford, while Davison didn’t get on the score sheet).
Reuvers’ contributions were huge, as Ethan Happ faced foul trouble in the second half and he stepped up to replace the missing scoring. King also hit some big buckets as the Badgers needed the points in the second half and Ford contributed a solid four rebound game as well.
If this group can give the Badgers 24-30 points per game its a recipe for success. The problem is, this group is still growing and inconsistent play has been the norm so far. Let’s see if they can turn the page and become consistent players as the bulk of Big Ten play awaits in January and February.
Ethan Happ: B –
It’s hard to be really harsh on the guy who carried this team and pulled down 10 rebounds. However, foul trouble hurt him and he was just 3 of 12 from the field. Not his beset night by far.
Khalil Iverson: A
This was by far his best night in a Badgers uniform. He spaced the floor well, used his athleticism to contribute on both ends and lifted the team up when it needed it as Happ struggled offensively. Iverson was a super-efficient 7 of 8 from the field in the winning effort.
Alem Ford: B +
He wasn’t asked to do a ton of scoring, but he did hit two important shots and contributed four rebounds. There was also an assist and a steal to his name. Overall, a nice night for a role player on the starting lineup.
Brad Davison: C
Davison has really struggled since picking up two shoulder injuries in less than two weeks time. I love his gritty game and willingness to play through injury, but he’s basically a one-armed player at the moment and you have to think some time off to heal up would be helpful. He took just four shots and missed them all. Luckily, his hustle turned in to a pair of rebounds, assists and one steal.
D’Mitrick Trice: C +
Scoring 9 points isn’t bad, but doing it while shooting 2 of 9 from the field and getting five of your nine points from the free throw line? Not exactly how you draw it up for your point guard. If Davison was 100 percent, it would be interesting to see if Trice would even be starting at this point. He hasn’t shown he deserves it in the past few weeks.
Brevin Pritzl: A
He wasn’t asked to shoot the ball a ton, but he did manage to hit an important triple and he was highly efficient from the free throw line. Oh and Prtizl threw in 5 rebounds for good measure. It was one of his better overall nights in Big Ten play in his career. More of that overall effort and he’ll see more minutes too.
Kobe King: A
King came up big when the team needed points in the second half. He shot a nice 3 of 4 from the field and was 2 of 2 from beyond the arc. It didn’t hurt he also pulled down 3 rebounds and had an assist and a blocked shot. King needs more moments like this to keep seeing his minutes increase.
Nathan Reuvers: A +
All I have to say is 11 points in 13 minutes of action. Reuvers was on fire, showing a good jump shot and an ability to mix it up despite playing a bit undersized down low. Will that eventually catch up to him? That is going to be the big question, but if they can get 7-10 points out of him on a consistent basis, they’ve found the big man off the bench that actually will help this team win.