STATE COLLEGE — Penn State’s sluggish start on offense resulted in early momentum for visiting Wisconsin.
No. 20 Penn State began the game on a nearly eight-and-a-half minute scoring drought, and Wisconsin’s Micah Potter took full advantage of the Nittany Lions’ first-half scoring lull.
Potter scored the Badgers’ first 12 points to spearhead a 58-49 Wisconsin victory on Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State’s 49 points were a season low.
The Wisconsin (10-6, 3-2 Big Ten) victory gave Penn State back-to-back losses for the first time this season, as the Nittany Lions lost to Rutgers on Tuesday.
“Wisconsin played a great game, and that’s what they do,” Penn State coach Pat Chambers said. “They got stops, and they got some major production from Potter, which we knew. We played him as a shooter, but obviously, he’s got a high release, and he’s every bit of 6-(foot)-10, 6-11. He was on fire. He made big-time shots.”
Potter scored a game-high 24 points to go with 12 rebounds. Teammate Brad Davison chipped in with 11 points, and Kobe King rounded out the Badgers' double-digit scorers with 10 points.
Potter’s 24 points set a new career-high for the Ohio State transfer.
“He’s done some of that, and he did some of that last year when he was playing while he was sitting out and playing on the scout team,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “He knocked down some (3s) when he played a shooting big like that. … But he got confident (today), and that’s a big thing with players. When they’re confident, they play really well, and then you have to continue to try to build on that.”
Penn State’s Lamar Stevens scored a team-high 19 points, and he added 13 rebounds. Izaiah Brockington finished with 15 points and two steals.
Just four Nittany Lion players recorded points. Jamari Wheeler finished with eight points, and Myreon Jones tallied seven points.
Penn State’s Mike Watkins, the Big Ten’s leader in blocks, went 0-of-3 from the field. He tallied two blocks and four rebounds.
“For two games now, we haven’t shot the ball particularly well,” Chambers said. “I thought we had some good ones, too. Some open, in-rhythm, really good looks. So we have to do a better job. We’ll look at the tape, and I’ll look at the offense and see if we have to tweak something. But we need everybody. To be successful, we have to spread the ball around. We need more than four guys scoring the basketball.”
The Nittany Lions shot 17-of-52 (32.7 percent) from the field, while the Badgers were 22-of-55 (40 percent). Against Rutgers, Penn State shot 36.1 percent (22-of-61).
“We had to be very good defensively, starting with our transition,” Gard said. “I thought, for the most part, we were good in transition. We let a couple of guys get loose for 3s and some of them didn’t go down, but they had some looks early in transition. But for the most part, I thought were able to get our defense set, which is important.”
Penn State went scoreless through the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the contest before Stevens connected on a jumper to make the score 10-2 in Wisconsin’s favor.
The Nittany Lions’ bench, which has played a significant role in Penn State's strong start to the season, contributed just 15 points.
Penn State shot 8-of-29 from the field in the first half, and trailed 31-22 at the break.
The Nittany Lions were again held scoreless over the last 2:03 of the second half. Cognizant of the Nittany Lions’ recent woes on offense, guard Myles Dread said the fix for the problem isn’t that complex.
“Get back in the gym tomorrow, and shoot some more shots,” Dread said.
The loss drops Penn State to 12-4 on the season and 2-3 in Big Ten play. Penn State travels to Minnesota (8-7, 2-3 Big Ten) on Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Chambers said he’s confident his team’s two-game skid won’t snowball into even more adversity.
“We’re different,” Chambers said. “We’re older, we’re a little bit more talented. Our front line’s older. Curtis Jones Jr. is a fifth-year (senior). These guys have been here – experience.”
Elton Hayes covers Penn State for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.