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February 19, 2012MADISON -- It was the "perfect storm."
That's what Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers called the combination of Wisconsin's home shooting struggles and its recent loss at Michigan State. Chambers had a feeling things might go a bit differently Sunday.
"I was scared for many reasons," Chambers said. "You knew, we could have been draped all over them and they were going to hit. And they did. That (first half) flurry was critical. Eleven threes in a game is too many."
The Badgers' outside shooting helped them build a big lead and hold off the Nittany Lions' second-half comeback attempt Sunday in a 65-55 victory at the Kohl Center.
UW led by as many as 20 points with 11:55 to go in the game, but a late charge by Chambers' team cut the lead as close as five points with under six minutes to play. Wisconsin was due for a hot shooting night, especially from 3-point range, and they got it against PSU with four different Badgers chipping in beyond the perimeter.
"At Michigan State we pushed the ball a little bit more, we were a little bit more successful that way, and guys looked to be more aggressive (in the second half)," Mike Bruesewitz said. "We just kind of rolled with that, I think."
Just over 10 minutes into the game, Jared Berggren hit a three that was the first of five in consecutive possessions for the Badgers. That run sent the game from a 12-9 UW lead to 27-13 in about 2 1/2 minutes.
Josh Gasser hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers during that stretch, and Ben Brust capped it with one of his own.
Neither Gasser nor Brust has been a big part of Wisconsin's offense lately, but their shots finally fell against Penn State. Gasser was one shy of his season high with 15 points, as he hit 3-of-5 from outside in the game. Brust added six points -- twice as many as he had in the last four games combined -- on 2-for-4 from 3-point range.
Gasser reached double digits for the first time since doing so in three straights games from Jan. 12-18.
"Coming into the game I was really trying to be more aggressive offensively," Gasser said. "Just trying to make plays whether it was for myself or my teammates. I've just got to keep playing with that aggressiveness going on and help our team."
Joining Gasser in scoring more than 10 points on the night were Ryan Evans, Jordan Taylor and Berggren. When the Badgers are shooting well and they have balanced scoring, they're a very tough team to beat.
Berggren, who made each of his attempts beyond the arc, had three of the more crucial 3-point baskets in the game for Wisconsin.
In addition to his first, which sparked the 15-4 Badgers run, Berggren also hit a pair of outside shots in the final 5 1/2 minutes that helped hold off the Nittany Lions' comeback efforts. With 5:30 remaining, Berggren extended the lead to eight points, and 1:40 later, he connected again from outside to make it a 9-point game.
"Those two threes he hit were to me the difference," Chambers said of Berggren's shots, both of which came immediately following PSU made baskets. "I thought we battled back and did some good things. But they were daggers."
Berggren managed to get open for those shots because Penn State kept forward Jon Graham inside to take away the driving lane.
"Jared was wide open because the defender was doing his job taking away the drives and that's what you have to go to next," Bo Ryan said. "But it wasn't by accident. That's what we read and that's how we reacted."
Hitting 11-of-22 attempts from outside, Sunday was the first time since Jan. 18 against Northwestern that Wisconsin shot better than 25 percent on 3-pointers. UW reached double digits in threes for the eighth time this season and third in Big Ten play.
Though they were outscored 34-30 in the second half, the Badgers' defense also improved from its poor performance Thursday against the Spartans, holding PSU to 21 first-half points, and 39.3 percent shooting overall for the game.
Only one starter, Bruesewitz, did not reach double figures in points. But with his seven points, career-high 12 rebounds and season-high five assists, Bruesewitz very well may have been the player of the game.
"It's nothing different from him," Taylor said. "It's pretty consistent every night. He's going to rebound, and he's going to find open guys and score when he needs to. He's been a rock all year long. It's not surprising."
PHOTO GALLERY: Wisconsin defeats Penn State
- Wisconsin improved to 20-7 overall, 9-5 in Big Ten play.
- UW is 164-15 (.916) at home under Bo Ryan including a mark of 82-9 (.901) in conference play.
- With the win, the Badgers reached 20 wins for the sixth straight season, the second-longest active streak in the Big Ten, behind Ohio State's seven in a row.
- Wisconsin has now won 15 consecutive home games versus Penn State, including all 12 times the Nittany Lions have visited the Kohl Center.
- The Badgers' 14-point halftime cushion (35-21) was their largest since having a 17-point lead (39-22) at the half against Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 23, 2011.
- Ryan improved to 17-4 all-time versus Penn State.
- UW started the game making its first 7 free throws, giving it 22 consecutive made free throws extending back to the Minnesota game.
- Wisconsin shot 82.4 percent (14-of-17) from the line in the game, improving its Big Ten-leading mark to 77.5 percent in conference games.
- The Badgers won for the 54th consecutive time when shooting a higher field goal percentage that their opponent, including a 15-0 mark this season.
- UW shot 50 percent from 3-point range (11-for-22), its fifth performance of 50 percent or better this season, and its first since shooting 52.2 percent (12-for-23) against Northwestern on Jan. 18.
- Wisconsin finished with four players in double-figure scoring for the ninth time this season, and sixth time during Big Ten play.
- Improving to 15-1 on the season when out-rebounding their opponents, the Badgers won the rebounding battle, 38-27, over the Nittany Lions.
- Josh Gasser finished with 15 points on 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range, just one point off his season high.
- It was Gasser's largest output since scoring 15 against Bradlye on Nov. 25.
- Mike Bruesewitz grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, added seven points and tallied a season-best five assists.
- Jared Berggren scored 13 points on 3-for-3 shooting from outside, while adding six rebounds and two blocks.
- Ryan Evans posted 11 points to go along with nine rebounds. He has scored 10 or more points in six straight games, averaging 13.7 per game over that stretch.
- Jordan Taylor scored 11 points to go along with four assists, his 17th consecutive double-figure scoring game.
Patrick Chambers, postgame audio
Bo Ryan, postgame audio
Taylor, Gasser, Bruesewitz, postgame audio