Compared to Penn State’s dependency on guards D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall for scoring, No. 22 Wisconsin used multiple offensive options against the Nittany Lions on Sunday.
In a heart-breaking 63-60 loss to the Badgers, the Lions’ backcourt tandem combined for 45 of the team’s 60 points. While Penn State relied on its two consistent scorers, Wisconsin had four players exceed double-digit point totals through different avenues.
Marksmen guards Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson nailed several shots from behind the 3-point line to fill up the box score. Big man Jared Berggren was efficient from the block, scoring 12 points, and freshman Sam Dekker sunk half of his 14 points from the free throw line.
That being said, the Badgers are accustomed to having a handful of players reach double figures. In Wisconsin’s last seven victories, the team has had at least three Badgers score 10 or more points due in part to the lack of a dominant scorer.
“It’s just taking what they give you,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “…As everybody knows, we don't have that one prolific scorer or two. We’ve been like this pretty much all year. When we don’t get guys in double figures, we struggle. We got to have at least three.”
Even though Ryan hasn’t seen one of his players score 20 points since Feb. 3., the Badgers’ ability to spread the floor and have an aggressive approach with the basketball has diminished the need for a prolific scorer.
And while Ryan-coached squads aren’t known for having one particular player take over games, Jackson — Wisconsin’s leading scorer of the game with 15 points — said the team’s contributors have the talent to do so.
“I think we have guys who can [score 25 points a night]. Sam [Dekker] is one of the best scorers I’ve ever played with,” Jackson said. “We can throw it to Berggren down in the post anytime and he can get a bucket… It makes it tough [on the opponent] when we're all hitting and we’re all being aggressive.”
On the flip side, the Lions reverted back to a dual-scorer system after becoming well rounded offensively in recent games.
Prior to Sunday, Penn State had three or more double-digit contributors in five of the last six games.
However, a major cog in that progression — senior forward Sasa Borovnjak — was unable to get into an offensive rhythm against Wisconsin and finished with just four points.
Borovnjak, who averaged 13.2 points in the six games prior to Sunday’s loss, picked up two fouls about eight minutes into the game and spent the rest of the half on the bench.
But it wasn’t just Borovnjak’s scoring that left a void as his role in the high-post creates passing lanes for players cutting to the basket.
“When Sasa gets in foul trouble, it changes the complexion of the game. It changes your offensive game plan,” Lions coach Patrick Chambers said. “…We share the ball much better when he's on the floor because he's able to do things when we spread him out a little bit.”