Game Grades: Men’s Basketball vs. Wisconsin

Story posted January 31, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Jonathan Draeger

The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers at the Bryce Jordan Center 81-71 on Saturday.

This marks Penn State’s third win in the last four conference games. They now stand 3-6 in the Big Ten and 6-7 overall on the year. Interim coach Jim Ferry’s team put on an impressive fight to earn the upset win. Let’s take a deep look into their performance.

Offense: B+

The Nittany Lions’ offense had some struggles scoring in the first half, only hitting 37.5 percent of their shots from the floor. But after the halftime pep talk from Ferry, Penn State found their groove.

Guard Myreon Jones led all scorers with 20 points, scoring 10 points in each half. But the second half provided plenty for guard Izaiah Brockington and forward John Harrar, who both scored most of their points in the second half.

Guard Seth Lundy, who was coming off a 26-point game against No. 13 Ohio State, fell silent, while Sam Sessoms returned from injury and added eight points off the bench.

On the boards, the team was struggling to grab rebounds offensively, but managed to find their footing in the back half of the game. Those rebounds led to second chance points, which would prove fatal for the Badgers.

For a team that struggled with making free throws and closing out games, Penn State managed to ice the game by making 76 percent of their free throws, the majority of them in the final two minutes of the game. There were instances where high percentage shooters from the stripe were missing free points, but those misses were not catastrophic enough to make a difference.

The main factor for the Nittany Lions was transition offense. The team cashed in on turnovers multiple times, which eventually helped them seal the deal, along with lack of turning the ball over.

Defense: A-

Penn State is notorious for its defense, especially in the steals department, as some players rank in the top ten in steals for the conference. This was further proved constantly in this matchup.

The Nittany Lions’ high intensity defense managed to create six steals from Wisconsin, which later turned into a plethora of points in transition. The pressure worked, considering the Badgers gave the ball up 12 times.

A constant factor into the close losses for Jim Ferry’s team was fouling, which led opposing teams to the free throw line numerous times. They controlled their fouling Saturday by committing only 10 total fouls. This provided less chances for the Badgers to get easy points and almost swing the game in their favor.

The rebounding on the defensive side struggled, but John Harrar came in to grab seven boards which prevented the Badgers from gaining several second chance opportunities. Along with the rebounds, the communication when the matchups are screening the defenders, whether on or off the ball, had their flaws, but eventually got straightened up as time went on.

Coaching: A

After a brutal loss to Ohio State, interim head coach Jim Ferry and company could have thrown their hands up and given up on the season. The coaching staff remained hopeful and determined to make noise in the Big Ten Conference.

The game plan on defense was to rush the Wisconsin offense by double teaming the big men on the low posts and short corners. The Badgers are never known to pick up the tempo when it comes to their offense, but the double team may have reconsidered that option.

The staff never had to use too many timeouts until the later minutes of the game, where Wisconsin was trying to create a miracle with a full court press. Ferry drew up some ideas for many of the stars to get open and draw fouls 90 feet away from the basket. The points coming from those free throws truly iced the game for the Nittany Lions.

The team managed to hold forward Micah Potter to six points, which perishes in comparison to Wisconsin’s last game against Maryland, where Potter scored 26 points in College Park. The double team managed to shut out a star player for the Badger’s.

However, the defense did manage to break down at times where the Nittany Lions presented the double team. Wisconsin managed to move the ball around efficiently, and Ferry never managed to adjust accordingly.

With this win, Penn State was able to break a 13-game losing streak to Wisconsin, which dates back to the 2011 Big Ten Tournament. The two teams, however, face off again on Tuesday in Madison. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.


Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at