Nankivil leads No. 10 Wisconsin past Penn State
MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Wisconsin ended its most recent losing streak just like the previous 19—at one.
Keaton Nankivil scored 22 points and tied a career high by hitting all five of his 3-point attempts, leading No. 10 Wisconsin over Penn State 76-66 on Sunday night for its 20th consecutive win coming off a loss.
“Those kind of numbers … I don’t really follow them,” coach Bo Ryan said of the streak. “I do know this: Our guys have been resilient and as long as they stay resilient, we’ll have a chance.”
Only Kansas has a longer streak at 23 wins coming off a loss dating to January 2006.
Jon Leuer added 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Badgers (20-6, 10-4 Big Ten) reached 20 wins for the eighth time in the last nine seasons after having four 20-win seasons in the first 103 years of the program. Nankivil didn’t talk postgame after needing treatment when he rolled his right ankle early in the first half.
“He’s a rhythm shooter and when he gets in a rhythm, he’s as good a shooter as anybody in the country. Look what he did tonight,” Leuer said. “We knew just get him the ball.”
“We saw the result, the game, but we didn’t really think about that too much,” said Josh Gasser, who scored 13 points. “That’s something we can’t really control.”
“We need the next three—all three,” said Jeff Brooks, who finished with 16 points. “We’re going to have to beat Northwestern at Northwestern. We’re going to have to find a way to beat Ohio State because they’re a very talented team.
“Then we have to go to Minnesota and get a win out there at the Barn. It’s a very tough environment to win in. But I think that we can do it.”
Leuer reached double figures for the 33rd consecutive game and Wisconsin avenged a 56-52 loss to Penn State three weeks ago when Battle scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime.
In this one, Battle took the lead in the Big Ten scoring race over Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson with 20 of his 23 points coming after the break, but it still wasn’t enough for the Nittany Lions to mount a serious rally.
Penn State never got closer than nine points in the second half, when Battle hit a 3 with 56 seconds left. Wisconsin, the nation’s best free-throw shooting team, finished 18 of 21 from the line.
Tim Frazier added 12 points for the Nittany Lions, who are 1-8 on the road this season and didn’t face an easy road in or out of Madison.
“It seems like we’ve got somebody who takes turns screwing up,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “It’s one guy this possession, another guy next possession, another guy next possession and the next thing you know, we’ve got three or four possessions where defensively we messed up or offensively we didn’t execute. I think that’s a big part of it.”
High winds forced Penn State to take the 2 1/2 -hour bus ride to Pittsburgh, staying overnight there for a Friday flight and kept the team from getting a full practice in. DeChellis said the winter storm bearing down on Wisconsin also put the Nittany Lions’ return in jeopardy, but a school spokesman said the team made it back to State College on Sunday night.
The 6-foot-8 Nankivil finished 8 of 9 from the field and was three points short of his career high. He got Wisconsin off to a quick start with three 3-pointers in the opening 6 minutes as Wisconsin built a 15-point first-half lead.
“He’s an opportunistic young man. His guy maybe helped a little bit or whatever the case, but he found himself open,” Ryan said. “He’s a guy who knows how to plant his feet and stare it down. He can extend defenses and he’s always been like that. When they’re going in, it looks good.”
Nankivil hit his fourth 3-pointer and was fouled, converting the four-point play that put Wisconsin ahead 40-24 early in the second half, and Leuer dribbled past David Jackson moments later and finished with a one-handed dunk.
The Badgers lost at Purdue on Wednesday after shooting 3 of 19 from 3-point range.
Against the Nittany Lions, Wisconsin went 8 of 15, its third straight game at the Kohl Center shooting 50 percent or better from 3-point range after previous wins over Michigan State and Ohio State.
The effort helped Wisconsin to its 18th straight victory at the Kohl Center, and the Badgers haven’t lost consecutive games anywhere since a six-game skid in January 2009.
“Losing leaves a sour taste in your mouth and you want to get rid of that as quick as possible,” Leuer said. “The group of guys that we have have done a great job of just refocusing after a loss, picking out things that they didn’t do well and correcting them.”