Wisconsin Holds Off Penn State in Final Minutes

Story posted March 2, 2014 in CommRadio, Sports by Eric DeBerardinis

Pat Chambers typically speaks glowingly of Tim Frazier, but the fifth-year seniorsʼs foul trouble was a source of frustration for the Nittany Lions head coach on Sunday afternoon. Penn State's floor general and co-captain picked up two fouls within the gameʼs first 10 minutes, and his third before halftime, isolating their best player to the bench.

“Heʼs a senior. He has got to know better,” said Chambers, following Frazierʼs final home game. “He has got to play like a senior.”

Three days after a court-storming upset over No. 22 Ohio State, an attempt to knock off No. 14 Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten) fell just short in the gameʼs waning moments, as Penn State (14-15, 5-11 Big Ten) dropped its final home game, 71-66, to the Badgers.

With Frazier relegated to just 22 minutes of action, D.J. Newbill provided extended flashes of what to expect when he assumes control of the offense next year. The redshirt junior took the reigns admirably, but no one stepped up as a consistent second option during Frazierʼs absence.

“We need a second scorer,” reiterated Chambers. “Newbill canʼt do it all himself.”

A lob and finish from Jordan Dickerson, who received his second straight start, kicked off the scoring.

With Penn State up 9-8, the Badgers embarked on an 8-0 run, which Newbill ended with a pull-up jumper from the right elbow, putting him above 1,000 points in his Nittany Lions career.

Wisconsinʼs first half lead never ventured into double digits, as Penn State continued to respond and remained within striking distance.

A missed shot at the buzzer prevented Penn State from entering halftime with a one possession deficit, but they still managed to trail just 31-27.

The Badgers emerged from the locker room strong, highlighted by two 3-pointers, to extend their lead to 10, just over four minutes into the half.

A diving inbounds steal by Ross Travis, leading to a Newbill bucket, seemed to shift momentum back in Penn Stateʼs favor. A succession of baskets by Newbill and John Johnson brought the Nittany Lions within four points, at 45-41.

Penn State cut the lead to two, midway through the second half, but a collection of tough scores and free throws by Wisconsin put them back up by seven.

Wisconsin converted on 19 of 24 free throws for the game, and 14 of 15 in the second half.

Frazier re-entered down the stretch, but didnʼt provide his typical spark. In his last appearance donning a Nittany Lion uniform inside the BJC, the Houston, Texas, native tallied 10 points, three rebounds and two assists.

“Knowing he was going to come back in, we thought he was going to be a lot more aggressive,” said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. “Fouls can change the way a player thinks, the way he plays.”

However, refusing to go away, the Nittany Lions continued to dominate the paint, bringing the deficit back to three, at 62-59 with three minutes to play. Penn State finished the game with 50 points in the paint, compared to just 18 from Wisconsin.

“We didnʼt have to settle for threes,” explained Newbill.

Despite the overwhelming advantage inside, Wisconsin hurt Penn State from deep, connecting on eight 3-pointers, with the Nittany Lions making just one trey all game.

Penn State applied pressure, but the Badgers continued to make the extra pass and find open looks.

“Their system is flawless,” added Newbill.

Despite a valiant effort throughout, Newbill committed two consecutive turnovers, and Wisconsin responded. Penn State committed just 11 turnovers during the game, but the Badgers managed to notch 17 points off of those turnovers.

“They pretty much scored every time we turned the ball over,” said Chambers.

Down 66-59, Frazier made the first of a one-and-one, and clanked the second, but Johnson managed to secure the long rebound and drive for a quick layup.

A Wisconsin miss was followed by a Tim Frazier putback, making it 66-64 with 18.2 seconds remaining. Traevon Jackson calmly hit two free throws, and a forced Newbill 3-pointer that was off the mark, effectively ending the game.

The Philadelphia native finished with 23 points, and played all but one minute. A clear second scorer did not emerge, but the Nittany Lions did have two players with near double-doubles. Brandon Taylor finished with nine points and 10 rebounds, while Travis finished with 10 and 8.

The Bryce Jordan Center held Team Ream Day to honor Brandon Ream, who lost his two-year battle with cancer in November. Ream was a former Nittany Lions football player, and avid supporter of Penn State basketball.

Sunday marked the conclusion of the Nittany Lions home slate this year (barring a host game in the NIT). Two regular season contests remain for Penn State, with their next matchup on Thursday in Evanston, Ill., against Northwestern.

Despite another close loss, Chambers sees no difficulty in regrouping his team for the final stretch of the season.

“If you hate losing, then itʼs easy...” said the third-year coach. “Itʼs easy to come back on Monday and try to get better.”

Eric DeBerardinis is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email ejd5136@gmail.com.

Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)