2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament
2011 Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals Recap
(6) Penn State 36, (3) Wisconsin 33
> Follow the entire 2011 Big Ten Tournament Here!
Critics will call this a terrible game that sent the sport of basketball into the 1940s. Lovers of hard-nosed defense will cherish this game, the final Big Ten quarterfinal on Friday, and cite it as a testament to hard work. When this battle was over, the Penn State Nittany Lions worked just a little harder and showed a little more patience than the Wisconsin Badgers did.
Penn State’s defense, guided by coach Ed DeChellis, controlled this game at the outset. Wisconsin simply could not score because of bad shot selection and was confined to the perimeter. Penn State raced to a 16-2 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, forcing the Badgers and coach Bo Ryan to make adjustments.
Slowly but surely, the third seed – trying to play for NCAA Tournament seeding – did find a way to turn the game in its direction. Wisconsin was able to string together a few baskets and defensive stops. The Badgers made the Nittany Lions guard them and, for a brief while, displayed patience on offense. Wisconsin ran halfcourt sets for 30 seconds at a time, forcing Penn State to chase through screens. The Badgers also excelled on the glass when they overcame their horrendous start. As the first half wore on, it was Penn State who couldn’t score. The Nittany Lions could not establish dribble penetration to the rim, and as a result, Wisconsin forced PSU to miss eight straight shots, most of them contested jumpers. The Badgers gained ground and trailed by only four points, 20-16, at the half.
The second half started the way the first half ended. Penn State clung to a 22-20 lead at the first media timeout of the half, but the Nittany Lions were hardly in control. Penn State got very frustrated by Wisconsin’s tenacious defense; this was especially the case with PSU point guard Talor Battle, one of the leading scorers in the league. Battle didn’t score his first points until late in the second half. He finished with only nine points on 3-of-18 shooting. Yet, in a game with a score as low as this one, Battle led Penn State in scoring. More importantly, he hit the game’s biggest shot, a three-pointer that gave PSU a 35-30 lead with two minutes left in regulation.
This was the contradiction at work in this contest: Wisconsin outplayed Penn State for much of the second half and played the style of game it wanted. There was just one problem for the Badgers: They couldn’t hit anything and were therefore unable to translate their excellent defense into a lead.
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin’s star guard, hit only 7 of 21 shots. Weirdly, the Badgers – a team that likes to share the ball – didn’t do much sharing on Friday. Taylor and teammate Jon Leuer took 37 of UW’s 51 shots and combined to hit only 12 of those 37 attempts, many of which missed in the final minutes when the Badgers were trying to make a comeback. When Taylor missed a three with his team trailing 35-33 in the final half-minute of regulation, Wisconsin missed its last best chance to win. The Nittany Lions added a free throw for a three-point lead and then watched as Wisconsin forced a last-ditch three that didn’t even come close to the rim at the final horn.
In examining this loss for the Badgers, it’s instructive to note that no one else on the Wisconsin roster took at least five shots or scored more than three points. The Badgers were selfish, and that’s why they lost a game that involved fewer points than Penn State’s 2010 win over Illinois, a 38-33 game that seemed like a low-water mark for Big Ten games played in the 35-second shot-clock era.
Penn State didn’t play pretty basketball. No matter – the Nittany Lions increased their chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
Next Game: Big Ten Tournament Semifinal No. 2
(7) Michigan State vs. (6) Penn State
Saturday, 30 minutes after Michigan/Ohio State, CBS
> Find more Big Ten football news online at Big Ten Fans!