Game Preview: Wisconsin

Story posted December 4, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Zach Kaplan

Penn State (7-2, 1-0 Big Ten) opens its Big Ten home slate on Monday when they host the Wisconsin Badgers (3-5, 0-1 B1G) at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State has not beaten the Badgers since March 11, 2011 in the Big Ten tournament.

It seems like Pat Chambers finally has a team that can compete in the Big Ten in his seventh season at the helm. Penn State is coming off a 77-73 win in their Big Ten opener at Iowa last Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Badgers have looked like a shell of their past selves thus far in part due to a difficult non-conference schedule. A perennial contender in the Big Ten, Wisconsin has lost close games to No. 23 Baylor and UCLA. They lost by double digits to No. 13 Xavier and No. 15 Virginia and were embarrassed by Ohio State over the weekend.

They return only one starter from last season in junior forward Ethan Happ, who is averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Happ and fellow junior forward Khalil Iverson (6.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG) are the only upperclassmen starting for the Badgers.

Sophomore D’Mitrik Trice and freshman Brad Davison combine for one of the youngest backcourts in the conference. Trice is averaging 10.3 PPG, to go with two rebounds and 2 assists per game as well.

Davison has been impressive in his first campaign with the Badgers, averaging 11.5 PPG. He has shot 45 percent from behind the arc so far. He also earned Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week last week after averaging 15 points and two steals against Baylor, UCLA and Milwaukee.

Freshman forward Aleem Ford rounds out the starting lineup for the Badgers. Ford redshirted last year but has started since the last four games. He had his best performance against Baylor where he had 10 points and three rebounds.

Key contributors off the bench for the Badgers include sophomore Brevin Pritzl (7.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG), freshman Kobe King (5.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG), and junior Andy Van Vliet (5.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG).

Meanwhile, Penn State returns all five starters from a year ago. Sophomore guard Tony Carr is averaging over 20.6 points a night to go with 4.5 rebounds per game. He has established himself as one of the top guards in the conference this season.

Junior Josh Reaves (11.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG) and senior Shep Garner (10.1 PPG, 2.0 RPG) have also played well at times in the backcourt for Penn State. Reaves is a tremendous defender, leading the team so far with 21 steals.

While Garner has been a contributor in each season with the Nittany Lions, he is notoriously streaky. He is shooting 36.4 percent from behind the arc this season, but nine of the 24 three-pointers he has made this season came in two games.

The front court combination of sophomore Lamar Stevens and redshirt sophomore Mike Watkins will be tested by Happ in this game. Stevens (15.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG) was the leading scorer for Penn State against the Hawkeyes, with 22 points and five rebounds.

Watkins (11.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG) has been a reliable big man for Penn State. With 23 blocks on the season, Watkins has become a force to be reckoned with in the paint.

Key contributors off the bench for the Nittany Lions include sophomore Nazeer Bostick (7.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG), freshman Jamari Wheeler (3.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG), and junior Satchel Pierce (3.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG).

It should be a great matchup both on the court between Happ and Watkins, and between the two coaches with Greg Gard under the helm for Wisconsin and Pat Chambers for Penn State. Gard has led the Badgers to the Sweet 16 the last two years, while Chambers appears to be on the precipice of a breakthrough season for the Nittany Lions.

 

Zach Kaplan is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism with a double minor in history and spanish. To contact him, email him at zachkaplan5@gmail.com.