STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)—Alando Tucker looked like a pretzel the way he would twist and turn in the lane for shots and rebounds.
That wasn’t a problem for Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan after his star forward scored 24 points and grabbed eight boards to help the fourth-ranked Badgers pull away from Penn State, 71-58 on Wednesday night.
“I don’t think Alando has ever really taken a bad shot,” Ryan said. “A tough shot, maybe.”
Tucker finished 9-of-19 shooting, but his second-half buckets were timely and dashed any thoughts that the Nittany Lions (10-12, 1-8 Big Ten) had for an unlikely upset of the tough Badgers (23-2, 9-1).
Jamelle Cornley’s jumper with about 7 minutes left got Penn State within six before Tucker went to work in the lane with three-point plays on consecutive possessions. A baseline reverse around Penn State’s Milos Bogetic led to a foul shot to give Wisconsin a 59-47 lead with about 6 minutes left.
Wisconsin, which shot 58 percent in the second half, cruised from there to keep pace with Ohio State atop the Big Ten.
Ryan enjoyed his team’s second-half spurt that featured Tucker and guard Michael Flowers.
“They can come in bunches and that’s why I had that group on the floor at the end of the game,” Ryan said. “When those come in bunches like that, you’ve just got to make sure you use some clock when you get the lead.”
Geary Claxton had 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Cornley had 20 points for Penn State, which lost its eighth straight.
The Lions hung close for much of the game thanks to an active zone and Cornley’s energetic play. The Badgers at times couldn’t hit shots when they did find space.
Then Flowers hit a couple 3s from nearly the exact same spot in the corner to give Wisconsin a 51-43 lead with 10 minutes left.
“It’s just certain players who we’ve scouted and when we played against, they’re not really threats out there,” Cornley said about Flowers. “So when he gets a wide-open shot and he makes it, it’s a surprise.”
The treys highlighted a superb all-around effort from Flowers, who finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Tucker wasn’t a surprise. The Big Ten’s second-leading scorer hustled in the lane for buckets, weaving between defenders in the Penn State zone.
“He’s an exceptional player. He moves well without the ball,” Cornley said. “He finds seams in the zone.”
The Badgers improved their conference road record to 6-1, best in the Big Ten, while Penn State’s miserable stretch continued. The Lions haven’t won since Jan. 3, when they beat Northwestern at home.
Already undermanned and reeling from the losing streak, Penn State suffered another blow when Claxton went to the bench with his third foul midway through the first half.
Cornley picked up the slack, scoring 12 first-half points, mostly off pump-fakes. The 6-foot-5 forward is a whirl of activity on the court, and his energy level helps him overcome taller opponents.
His teammates looked just as invigorated at times early on, sticking close to the Badgers and getting louder-than-normal encouragement from a crowd desperate to watch a win.
Tucker, as usual, did his best to disappoint his opponents. Wisconsin’s leader got a three-point play after being fouled while floating in a shot from the lane before Jason Bohannon hit a baseline jumper to give the Badgers a 34-29 halftime lead.
“We played good for about 33 minutes. The last seven we didn’t play particularly well,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “I thought we came in with good energy, and the guys thought we could win.”
Penn State played without starting center Brandon Hassell, who has a sprained left foot.
Kammron Taylor added 13 points for Wisconsin, while David Jackson scored 10 off the bench for Penn State.