MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin coach Greg Gard counted 13 Penn State transition points in the first half. None in the second. Somebody got through to the Badgers, though Gard suspects his senior-laden lineup played a role in delivering that message at halftime as No. 15 Wisconsin shut down Penn State in the second half on its way to an 82-55 victory.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin coach Greg Gard counted 13 Penn State transition points in the first half. None in the second.
Somebody got through to the Badgers, though Gard suspects his senior-laden lineup played a role in delivering that message at halftime as No. 15 Wisconsin shut down Penn State in the second half on its way to an 82-55 victory.
"They do a very good job of addressing the right issues among themselves," Gard said. "I probably didn't say anything new they hadn't heard from a teammate before I went in there."
After allowing the Nittany Lions (11-10, 3-5 Big Ten) to shoot 52 percent in the first half — the second-best performance any team has put up against Wisconsin this season — the Badgers (17-3, 6-1) held them to 27 percent in the second half.
Gard and his players said it was simply a matter of shoring up their transition defense.
Penn State's performance in the opening half including shooting 6 of 10 from behind the 3-point line — the Nittany Lions average shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc — helping make up for nine turnovers. They trailed 36-33 at halftime.
But things went downhill quickly in the second half as they opened 4 for 18 from the field. One sequence seemed to sum up Penn State's struggles. Mike Watkins could not convert an alley-oop pass, and the Nittany Lions gathered the offensive rebound. But Shep Garner, who was 3 of 3 from behind the arc in the first half, air balled a long 3 attempt out of bounds.
The rout was soon on.
Vitto Brown, who finished with 16 points, said the Badgers gave up some easy baskets early, which built the Lions' confidence as they started to hit from the outside.
Bronson Koenig scored 20 points to lead the Badgers, while Ethan Happ added 14 points and eight rebounds.
"There was nothing we could really do about that," Brown said of some contested 3s the Lions hit in the first half. "But that's why we wanted to cut off those easy baskets in the second half."
Penn State coach Pat Chambers said the Badgers were able to limit the Nittany Lions' transition game partly by shooting better — 56 percent in the second half vs. 39 percent to open. That helped limit their options to run, and Penn State stopped moving the ball as well in the second half, settling for contested shots after starting to miss early, he said.
Payton Banks and Tony Carr led the Nittany Lions with 12 points apiece.
"We need to learn how to respond to runs by great teams," Chambers said. "I don't think we responded like we normally have."
Penn State: After beating Minnesota and losing a heartbreaker to Indiana, the Nittany Lions have lost by more than 20 points in consecutive road games to ranked teams.
Wisconsin: The Badgers have won 13 of 14, the only blip in the streak a 66-55 loss at Purdue.
HAPP ON TRACK
The Badgers started to shake off the Nittany Lions after Happ came alive. He struggled in the first half, shooting 2 of 6 from the field, in part because Watkins blocked him twice in the span of about 5 minutes. But Happ scored on the Badgers' first two possessions of the second half to spark a 13-2 run that put Wisconsin up 52-38 on Brown's 3-pointer. They wouldn't be threatened the rest of the way. Happ said he was trying to be too aggressive in the first half rather than relying on his post moves. "That's kind of my game. I kind of got away from it right there," he said.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions host Illinois on Saturday.
Wisconsin: The Badgers play Rutgers on Saturday in New York's Madison Square Garden.