STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was more than willing to let Penn State score some under the basket in exchange for shutting down the Nittany Lions’ outside shooting and preventing damaging runs.
Despite being outshot and outrebounded, No. 14 Wisconsin made 13 of 14 free throws in the final 7:45 and held on for a 71-66 victory Sunday, the Badgers’ seventh straight.
Josh Gasser scored 15 points to lead a balanced Badgers’ offense.
Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten) held onto third place in the conference standings as Ben Brust scored 14 points and Traevon Jackson, who made four clutch free throws down the stretch, added 13.
”We’re going to give up some points in the paint to a team like Penn State,” Ryan said. ”The thing you can’t let them do … some of the shooters, they get on runs. We did a real good job from the 3-point line and hitting our free throws. That was the difference.”
D.J. Newbill had 23 points for Penn State (14-15, 5-11), which dropped to 2-5 against ranked teams this season. The redshirt junior became Penn State’s 31st career 1,000-point scorer. He leads the Big Ten this season with 178 field goals.
Tim Frazier and Ross Travis scored 10 points each for Penn State, which is 4-7 in games decided by five points or fewer.
The Nittany Lions were 28 for 58 from the field, while the Badgers were 22 for 50.
The Badgers were 8 for 24 from 3-point range and held Penn State to 1 for 13 shooting from behind the arc.
Brust had four 3s and Gasser added three 3-pointers for Wisconsin while Jackson and Nigel Hayes combined for nine assists to set up timely and open second-half looks.
”They (Penn State) were doing some things and trying to get us to cough it up,” Ryan said. ”They were playing hard and taking us out of what we were trying to do, so that was the give and take. I thought we found the open guys.
”We got the ball out of trouble a couple times and got it to an open player and scored. If you let those double-teams get you, then it’s an avalanche. They got more off the glass than what I wanted them to (in the second half).”
The Nittany Lions closed within 66-64 with 18 seconds left but was forced to foul. Jackson went 4 for 4 from the line during the closing seconds and Gasser was 2 for 2.
Newbill committed two turnovers after Penn State had drawn within three points and Wisconsin was able to hold on.
”We definitely have to make 3s but you also have to take what Wisconsin gives you,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
”I think that’s why we compete with Wisconsin every time we play them. We’re OK getting 50 points in the paint. We just need a second scorer; Newbill can’t do it all by himself. We need a second and third scorer; we just didn’t get production.”
Gasser’s two free throws put the Badgers up by seven points but a backcourt violation and two missed shots enabled Newbill and Travis to tighten the gap to 62-59. Wisconsin missed again but Newbill lost control of the ball on the way to the basket with 2:23 to go.
As Penn State made its charge, Wisconsin maintained its composure. That didn’t surprise Ryan.
”You have to hope it stays that way,” Ryan said. ”It isn’t always going to go that way, but I like the way our guys approach it.”
Wisconsin opened the season with a 16-game winning streak before enduring a slide during which the Badgers lost five of six.
”If you take 16 games in the Big Ten, shuffle them up, throw them out and let them fall, it might not have been a seven-game win streak, it might not have been a three-game win streak to start the league,” Ryan said.
”But I like how hard they’re playing right now, how smart they’re playing,” he said. ”You look at their last five games in the Big Ten, and we just beat a good team.”