Badgers Rudely Introduce Interim Head Coach, Top Nittany Lions Convincingly
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- To say that Penn State missed head coach Pat Chambers’ presence on the sideline would be the understatement of the year, and it’s only January 6th.
The eighth-year head coach was handed a one-game suspension by the University for pushing guard Myles Dread during the Michigan game, and the fire that the Penn State faithful have grown accustomed to from this team was absent both on and off the court tonight.
No. 22 Wisconsin (11-4, 3-1) entered the Bryce Jordan Center riding a two-game losing streak, and yet they prevailed with ease on the road, upending host Penn State (7-8, 0-4) by a final score of 71-52.
Preseason All-American Ethan Happ entered the contest averaging 19.1 points per game, and while shooting at a clip far below his second in the nation field goal percentage, Happ finished the night with 22 points.
Harassed by forwards Mike Watkins and John Harrar of Penn State, Happ used every move in the book, eventually finding his greatest success going with left-handed hook shots. However, Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard is fully aware that such high-volume shooting will not be to the Badgers’ benefit as they go forward in Big Ten play.
“I’d like to see Ethan be more efficient. He was much more efficient in the second half,” coach Gard said. Happ finished 10 of 24 from the field, and 5 of 9 in the second half.
Happ may have garnered most of the hype heading into tonight’s game, but Wisconsin’s defense is most deserving of the credit for its victory. A stifling Badger defense forced Penn State to commit 16 turnovers, of which Wisconsin converted into 19 points. If the Nittany Lions are going to compete in Big Ten play, taking care of the basketball is of extreme importance.
“Taking care of the basketball is something we’ve needed to work on the entire season. Unfortunately, tonight, we struggled,” Penn State associate head coach Keith Urgo said.
Wisconsin found difficulty shooting in the early going, relying heavily on its defense to create offense. The Badgers used an 8-0 run during a six-minute span to give themselves a 24-11 lead with 5:29 to go in the first half, capitalizing on Penn State’s inability to shoot the ball from the outside.
The Nittany Lions would battle back, cutting Wisconsin’s lead to 10 at the half, 33-23. Coming out of the break, however, Wisconsin would go on a quick 10-0 run to give itself a commanding 20-point lead, from which the Badgers would not look back.
The Badgers led by as much as 24, using a balanced attack in the second half that featured going inside-out from Happ to sharpshooters Brad Davison and Brevin Pritzl, both of whom finished perfect from beyond the arc. This type of shooting is precisely what Penn State’s coaching staff hopes from its freshmen.
“We’ve just got to continue to shoot the basketball. We’ve got great shooters, we’re putting in the work. Eventually, they’ll start to fall,” coach Urgo said.
Penn State’s freshmen trio of Myreon Jones, Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread combined to go 5 of 20 for the game, and the Nittany Lions will be searching much longer for their first Big Ten win if such shooting woes are to continue.
“They’re big-time talents. They’re just learning what it’s like to play in the Big Ten every single night. They’ll get it” coach Urgo said, alluding to the team’s prized freshmen learning from these rough experiences.
Penn State will face another top-25 opponent with Thursday night’s road match-up with the Nebraska Cornhuskers looming large. If the Nittany Lions hope to right the ship, they’ll need all the help they can get starting with the direction of their returning head coach.
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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