Wisconsin beat Penn State in thrilling, dramatic fashion when Traevon Jackson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to silence the home hopefuls and give the Badgers a 63-60 victory.
Jermaine Marshall led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting. D.J. Newbill also went 9-of-20 and added 22 points, but the Nittany Lions got little else offensively.
Jackson led Wisconsin with 15 points. Sam Dekker finished with 14 including 12 crucial second-half points for the Badgers.
“I really felt like we earned the right to win this one,” said Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers. “That’s why this one hurts. Because (we) did everything to earn it the last few days, all year long. And to lose on that type of shot, you feel for them.”
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Penn State (10-20, 2-16 Big Ten) started the game slowly, but looked like the better team for stretches until the exciting finale.
With about 30 seconds remaining, Newbill drove right, hit the brakes in the lane and let an overzealous Jared Berggren fly by which left the basket unattended.
After Newbill’s subtle subterfuge and layup, 25 seconds remained and the Nittany Lions trailed 60-58.
The tension mounted as the estimated 8,701 in attendance on Alumni Day at the Bryce Jordan Center had to wait after both teams burned timeouts.
When play commenced, Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz — who spent most of the day chasing Marshall — turned the ball over and gave the Penn State faithful hope.
Newbill was at it again with a mid-range jumper — an area he inhabited most of the game — that tied things at 60 with just five seconds remaining.
Nick Colella, who secured the offensive rebound that allowed Newbill to tie it, nearly gave his team a chance to win it when he dove on the Badgers’ next inbounds pass. However, the possession arrow favored the Badgers, giving Jackson the opportunity needed to steal the show.
Jackson caught the ball on the left side near his own foul line and within four dribbles got a step on Colella and a shoulder past Kevin Montminy.
The southpaw’s 3-pointer from about three steps beyond the line was pure, ever so gently nicking the back rim as it passed through.
He held his follow through until the end and left it up as teammates swarmed him.
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said he was poised to call timeout but didn’t see his guard in trouble.
“We just did 25 to 30 of those same situations about a week ago,” Ryan said. “It’s a tough shot … but they know the drill.”
Chambers said his team was in a switch-everything three-quarter-court defense.
“Give Jackson credit,” Chambers said. “Tough shot, tough shot.”
Save for the opening minutes of the game when Wisconsin opened with a 14-9 lead, Penn State outplayed or at least hung with the Badgers most of the game.
The Nittany Lions outrebounded the Badgers (31-28), scored more points in the paint (30-20) and had fewer turnovers (8-6). The game featured 18 lead changes and six ties.
However, Wisconsin (21-10, 12-6 Big Ten) had the far more balanced offensive attack.
In addition to Ben Brust (13), Berggren (12 points and 10 rebounds) and Jackson, the Badgers also got double figures from Dekker, who went 7-of-8 from the foul line in the second half.
In stark contrast, Newbill and Marshall accounted for 40 of the Nittany Lions’ 53 shot attempts.
Both were effective early and often.
“Jermaine and D.J. had hot hands,” Chambers said. “They took good shots. Mostly high-percentage shots. That’s the way Wisconsin defends you. They want you to take floaters and mid-range jumpers. Jermaine and D.J. are very good mid-range shooters. So let’s take what they give us and I think that’s what they did a very good job of.”
Chambers also said early foul trouble interrupted his team’s offensive flow.
Ross Travis scored six points and finished with 11 rebounds, while Sasa Borovnjak, who came in averaging 13 points in his last six games, had four points and two rebounds on 2 of 5 shooting.
Penn State has acquitted itself well for much of the season minus Tim Frazier, but sticking around in games and making opponents work for victories isn’t the goal for Chambers.
“What I will tell you is we lost,” Chambers said after being asked if sticking with a top-25 team encouraged him.
“And I say this in the nicest way: Horseshoes, it’s great when you get close. But in basketball it’s a loss.
“And it happens too much around here, the men’s basketball program. Everybody gets excited when we just get close. I’m tired of getting close. I want to win. We all need to change our mentality, because we lost. We’re getting better. Guys are getting better, individuals are getting better and we have to continue going in that path.”
Penn State will be a No. 12 seed in next week’s Big Ten Tournament and will face No. 5 seed Michigan at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The Nittany Lions split two games with the Wolverines this season with each team defending its home floor.
With the Big Ten seedings still undecided immediately after the game, Chambers did not know who his opponent would be Thursday, but seemed to like his chances regardless.
“Call me crazy,” Chambers said. “I don’t want this season to end because we’re starting to figure some things out. They’re starting to play hard and together. D.J. looks like a solid point guard. Jermaine is playing at a high level, Sasa at a high level.”
“I’m excited for next week.”