Penn St.-Wisconsin Preview

Wisconsin knows it’s headed for a 13th consecutive NCAA

tournament, but it would like to avoid going in for a third

straight year with a loss in the Big Ten quarterfinals fresh in

mind.

Toppling the 13th-ranked Badgers might be just the resume boost

Penn State needs.

Third-seeded Wisconsin hopes to start a lengthier stay at

Conseco Fieldhouse on Friday night against the Nittany Lions, who

almost certainly need another win to have any shot of making their

first NCAA tournament in a decade.

The Badgers (23-7) won the 2008 Big Ten tournament in

Indianapolis, the fourth time in five years they’d at least

advanced to the championship game, but their visits to Conseco have

been brief the past two years.

Each time Wisconsin was seeded fourth, and each time it played

dreadful offense. Coach Bo Ryan’s team shot 36.0 percent in a 61-57

loss to Ohio State two years ago, then shot an atrocious 28.6

percent while falling 58-54 to Illinois in last season’s

quarterfinals.

On both occasions, the Badgers went on to lose in the second

round of the NCAA tournament.

“I can’t say winning or losing early (in Indianapolis) has been

a factor in the NCAA tournament,” Ryan said. “If you talk to

coaches, and you talk to them on a different week, they might say

getting bumped in that first round actually helped us.”

Wisconsin lost 93-65 at top-ranked Ohio State on Sunday, when in

the Buckeyes made 14 of 15 3-pointers. The Badgers haven’t dropped

consecutive games since a six-game skid Jan. 11-31, 2009.

“You know how our guys are,” Ryan said. “After a game, we go to

practice. It’s not like it’s, oh, that was an eye-opener, or that

was a message that was sent. Ohio State can send that message to a

lot of people.”

Penn State (17-13) has shown it can compete with some of the Big

Ten’s upper-echelon teams – at least at home. It owns three home

wins over top-20 opponents, including a 56-52 victory over then-No.

17 Wisconsin on Jan. 29.

That snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Badgers, but the

Nittany Lions couldn’t pull off a season sweep. They shot 53.1

percent in a Feb. 20 trip to Madison, but lost 76-66 as Wisconsin

got 22 points apiece from Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil.

Coach Ed DeChellis’ team lost eight of its first nine on the

road, but has picked it up away from the Bryce Jordan Center as it

tries to make its first NCAA tournament since 2001 – also its last

Big Ten semifinal appearance. The Nittany Lions have won their last

three away from home, including Thursday’s 61-55 first-round win

over Indiana.

“This is March, you’ve got to win,” DeChellis said. “You’ve got

to continue to build your resume.”

Penn State won Thursday with star guard Talor Battle scoring

just 13 points – 7.2 below his average – but it’s actually been

better off when Battle hasn’t had to carry the load. The Lions are

14-8 when he scores 23 or fewer and 3-5 when he scores more.

Battle averaged 22.5 points – hitting 10 of 22 3-pointers –

against Wisconsin this season.

Leuer, meanwhile, has averaged 20.0 points against Penn State

this season. The Badgers are 12-1 when he scores at least 20 points

– the exact record they have when Jordan Taylor scores that

many.

The sixth seed has beaten the third seed in four of the past

five Big Ten tournaments.