Penn State put together its best shooting performance in a half this season and still trailed Wisconsin by seven points at the break.
The Nittany Lions shot 64 percent from the field, led by D.J. Newbill’s 6-for-7 start, to keep pace for the majority of the opening 20 minutes. Penn State moved ahead by three points with six minutes left in the half after connecting on six straight shots.
The No. 4 Badgers withstood Penn State’s blistering start, took control by halftime and crushed any hope for an upset early in the second half en route to an 89-72 win Wednesday at the Kohl Center.
Wisconsin shot 70 percent in the second half to run away with the win in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Nigel Hayes scored 21 points to lead four Badgers in double figures. Frank Kaminsky had 18 points and 14 rebounds, Sam Dekker added 17 points and Traevon Jackson chipped in with 16 for Wisconsin (13-1, 1-0).
“Obviously, we ran into a bus,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “They’re really good. You take one thing away, they go to the next thing. You take that away, they go to the third option. You take that away, and they go to the fourth.
“Frank and Nigel played extremely well, but their top four guys were very difficult to defend today when they’re making shots like that.”
Newbill finished with a game-high 29 points for the Nittany Lions (12-2, 0-1), who saw a 10-game winning streak come to an end. The senior guard went 11 for 18 from the field and 5 for 8 from the free-throw line.
Newbill kept the Nittany Lions in the game early.
Wisconsin opened the contest on an 8-0 run before Newbill finished down low to get Penn State on the board.
His 3-pointer less than four minutes later pulled PSU within one point, and his runner in the lane on the next possession gave the Nittany Lions their first lead, 13-12, with 12:55 to play in the half.
Newbill later swished a jumper over Wisconsin’s Duje Dukan to stay perfect — 6 for 6 — from the field and push Penn State ahead 19-18.
“He’s very good offensively,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “He’s hard to read, he can stretch you with the three. He’s strong enough to take you off the bounce. He uses good head fakes, good balance and he’ll step by you. You definitely need help to go to him.”
His teammates helped the Nittany Lions stay close and take a 30-27 lead on Geno Thorpe’s 3-pointer with 6:02 to play. But Penn State couldn’t keep pace as the Badgers closed the first half strong to take a 43-36 lead at the break.
Penn State went 16 for 25 (64 percent) in the first half, edging its second-half performance of 63.6 percent in a comeback win over Akron for its best 20 minutes of the season. The Nittany Lions outscored the Zips 46-27 in that half.
The hot shooting led to eight lead changes in the first half, but Penn State couldn’t climb back into it in the second half.
The Nittany Lions had no answer for Wisconsin’s offensive firepower.
“We had 63 possessions,” Ryan said. “We’ve had games where we’ve scored 63 points with 63 possessions. Productivity was pretty good today.”
It was on display during an 11-2 run out of the break.
Dekker hit a pull-up jumper and swished a fadeaway jumper. Jackson nailed a 3-pointer, making Penn State’s Shep Garner pay for going under a screen at the top of the key. Hayes, who went 2 for 3 from beyond the arc, powered through Newbill on the block for a 3-point play.
Wisconsin suddenly led by 16 less than four minutes into the second half.
When Penn State cut the deficit to nine, the Badgers quickly rebuilt it and never led by fewer than 15 points in the final 10 minutes.
Kaminsky, Wisconsin’s 7-foot center, helped Wisconsin maintain its cushion.
He caught a pass on the perimeter, used a pump fake and drove past Penn State’s Julian Moore to draw a foul. He hit both free throws and later showed off his ball handling to get inside again.
Standing beyond the arc, Kaminsky went behind his back to his left, then spun back to his right with Moore on his back and easily banked a shot off the glass to give the Badgers a 20-point lead.
“They’re tough because Frank can do so much,” Chambers said. “The way they’re playing on the perimeter, it’s very difficult to guard, especially with traditional fives. They’re not used to playing on the perimeter. There’s the mismatch.”
Notes: Penn State takes on Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J. at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are 8-6 and dropped their Big Ten opener 51-47 to Northwestern. … Thorpe and Garner each scored 11 points for Penn State on Wednesday.