STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — No. 5 Wisconsin couldn’t control Penn State’s D.J. Newbill on Wednesday night, so the Badgers settled for stopping all his teammates.
Sam Decker scored 22 points and Frank Kaminsky added 16 as No. 5 Wisconsin overcame a late Penn State surge to defeat the Nittany Lions 55-47.
Dekker and Penn State’s D.J. Newbill waged an entertaining scoring battle. Newbill got 29 points, but the next-highest scorer for Penn State (15-12, 3-11) was Brandon Taylor with seven.
The Badgers (24-2, 12-1), despite shooting 39 percent, were aided by Nigel Hayes’ 13 rebounds and nine points.
“We kept trying to get stops on the other end,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “If Newbill wants to get a shot, he’s going to get a shot. With how strong he is with the ball and deception and change of directions. We wanted to be sure we didn’t let anybody else get hot. Fortunately they didn’t.”
Wisconsin’s 24th victory marked the school’s best start in program history.
Seventeen of Penn State’s 27 games have been decided by eight points or fewer and the Lions stuck around in this one. But they were 2 of 13 from long range and got to the foul line just three times.
Penn State’s players outside of Newbill were just 8 of 33 from the field.
“I was just trying to get a win, man,” Newbill said. “The points mean nothing to me if we don’t win the game.
“I was just trying to do whatever I could to keep my team in the game.”
Wisconsin never trailed and pulled out to a 39-26 lead at the outset of the second half when Dekker sandwiched a pair of buckets around two from Hayes.
That forced a Penn State timeout, then neither team scored for more than three minutes before Newbill’s layup for Penn State and another Dekker 3-pointer that put the Badgers up by 14.
The teams combined for just 21 points in the first 11 minutes of the half, and the Badgers patiently built a 46-30 lead. Hayes and Kaminsky dominated the boards and Penn State went cold.
“We were trying to do whatever we could to keep the lead,” Kaminsky said. “We knew coming in they were much better at home and they were able to feed off that energy.”
Newbill brought the Nittany Lions back within striking distance when he put in seven straight points and Geno Thorpe added two more to make it 48-43.
“When they get a lead, like 10 or 16, it’s really like 20 or 30,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “They really melt the clock, they really share the basketball. They have a lot of good players with high IQ; Bo does a great job.”
Newbill had a chance to bring the Lions within three but tripped over teammate Ross Travis and Kaminsky picked up the loose ball and was eventually fouled.
“I thought I’d seen it all the last four years, but I’ve seen it all this year,” Chambers said with a laugh about Newbill’s fall. “Some of the quirkiest turnovers and craziest plays I’ve ever seen.”
Kaminsky hit both to make it 50-43 and followed that with a strong drive and a layup for a nine-point Badger lead with 2:09 to go.
Kaminsky and Dekker scored the Badgers’ first 11 points and Newbill pumped in the Lions’ initial 12. Two of Kaminsky’s early points came on a thunderous slam off an uncontested drive through the lane, while the bulk of Newbill’s were pull-up jumpers.
Wisconsin took a 19-8 lead, then went on a dry spell in which it scored just five points in 10:30 as Penn State closed to 24-21 late in the half.
“How can you end a half and score three buckets in 10 minutes, something like that, it’s amazing,” Ryan said. “I think we started out 8 for 11 and went 3 for 14.”