Prediction: No.22 Wisconsin at Penn State

Prediction: No.22 Wisconsin at Penn State

Basketball

Prediction: No.22 Wisconsin at Penn State

Get ready for a grind that likely won’t be must-see television, especially if you are a big fan of offense.

It’s no secret that Wisconsin is coming off an ugly showing against Minnesota Thursday to drop consecutive games for the first time since early last February. Now the Badgers are headed to a venue where the average margin of victory in the last six games in the series is just 4.8 ppg with none of the games decided by more than eight points.

Tonight probably won’t be any different. The Nittany Lions are No. 16 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency with Wisconsin close behind at No.18, per KenPom. Penn State held No.2 Michigan to only 25 points in the first half Thursday, the second-lowest for the Wolverines in any half in 2018-19, and are holding teams to 32.9 percent shooting from 3-point range. Wisconsin had held four of its last five opponents under 44 percent shooting, including three to 40 percent or less.

On the flip side, both teams have been less than stellar offensively. Penn State is No. 127 in adjusted offensive efficiency and is one of the worst shooting 3-point teams in the Big Ten at 32.1 percent. Wisconsin scored a whopping 14 points in the first half. The Badgers also have two of their key players struggling.

Senior All-American Ethan Happ went 9-for-23 shooting at Western Kentucky and then 1-for-7 from the free throw line vs. Minnesota. Point guard D’Mitrik Trice is 9-for-30 from 3-point range over his last five games, has started to force shots and had a career-high four turnovers against the Gophers because he forced passes. UW also has seen role players Khalil Iverson, Brevin Pritzl, Aleem Ford and others miss open shots.

With so much uncertainty around him and the fact that Penn State doesn’t play anybody consistently over 6-9, Happ will certainly need to be a featured player. In games away from the Kohl Center, Happ is averaging 21.5 points and 11.7 rebounds. In three career meetings against Penn State, Happ has averaged 14.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg and 2.0 spg.

One other small story to watch is how Penn State will react tonight to associate head coach Keith Urgo calling the shots with the passionate Patrick Chambers suspended for pushing a player on Thursday. Will the Nittany Lions play with the same kind of fire?

It’s early, but this is a pivotal game for Wisconsin to right the ship with a tough stretch of games upcoming. I expect a better game from Trice and from the role players around Happ, getting UW back on track with a six-point gutty win.

Worgull’s Record: 10-4

Points off Prediction: 132 (9.4 per game)

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