Men’s basketball looking for upset bid over Wisconsin

Story posted February 18, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack Milewski

Coming off another close loss, Penn State (15-11, 3-10 Big Ten) will welcome No. 5 Wisconsin (23-2, 11-1 Big Ten) to Happy Valley on Wednesday.

Penn State lost their 10th Big Ten game and fourth out of the last five this past Saturday as they fell 76-73 to No. 19 Maryland. It marked the sixth time in Big Ten play that Penn State has lost by six points or less.

Wisconsin is looking to win their ninth straight game, as they have had streaks of seven wins, and eight wins snapped by losses. Four of Wisconsin’s last six games, including this one, are on the road.

The first time these two teams met, Wisconsin got the better of Penn State, putting together a complete 40 minutes en route to a 89-72 victory. D.J. Newbill, as he has so often this season, led Penn State in scoring with 29 points. The Nittany Lions kept it close in the first half, trailing by only seven at the break, but the depth of the Badgers was too much in the second half.

As mentioned, the Nittany Lions are headlined by standout guard, and All-American candidate, D.J. Newbill. Newbill is averaging just less than 21 points per game and supplies the bulk of Penn State’s offense in most games.

“He isn’t in many conversations for player of the year and he should be,” said head coach Pat Chambers. “He’s carrying a team and scoring in a variety of ways.

Other than Newbill, Penn State only has one player averaging double figures in the scoring category. Brandon Taylor holds that honor, but he is day-to-day with an ailing knee injury and it is unclear if he will be able to play in the game Wednesday night.

“He’s day-to-day and we’re going to see how he feels tomorrow,” Chambers said. “I don’t want to push him if it is the same injury because he’s just going to keep getting hurt and mentally it’s going to mess him up.”

Shep Garner and Geno Thorpe hover around nine points per game and round out the rest of what is a less than stellar supporting cast for Penn State.

On the other side of the court, Wisconsin boasts one of the best all-around players in the country in Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky, at 7 feet and 234 pounds, can run the floor and shoot like a guard, but is still able to make an impact down low as well. He averages 17.8 points per game and grabs 8.4 rebounds per contest.

“Frank is definitely a huge piece to their puzzle, but they have a lot of other very good players and they have a very strong bench as well,” said Chambers.

To go along with the possible player of the year in the NCAA, the Badgers also have Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes. The sizes of those two, plus Kaminsky, make the Badgers a tough team to score against as they give up 55.9 points per game, good for eight in the nation. Traevon Jackson is also very credible at the guard position, pouring in 9.4 points per, while dishing out 2.9 assists.

This game is big for both teams in terms of overall record. Penn State stands no chance in making a climb in the Big Ten standings, but are still in the running for a bid in the NIT. However, two or three more losses could derail that goal for the Nittany Lions, making every game that much more crucial.

On the other hand, Wisconsin is looking to lock up a Big Ten title, and possibly a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. As it stands now, the Badgers face two more ranked opponents in their schedule, but also a very tough Michigan State squad, making this game that much important for them as well.

“We’re hungry and we’re feisty,” Chambers said. “They are going to keep battling and sooner or later the ball is going to bounce our way.”

ComRadio will have the call from the Bryce Jordan Center with the tip scheduled for 7 p.m. Coverage will start at 6:30 with the Basketball Pregame Show, hosted by Uriah Tagle.

Jack Milewski is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email jbm250@psu.edu.