After a rough start to Big Ten play, Wisconsin has managed to turn things around.
The No. 19 Badgers try to match a season high with their sixth straight victory Tuesday night while hoping to avoid a second consecutive defeat at Penn State in this league matchup.
Wisconsin (17-5, 6-3) won 64-60 at Nebraska in its conference opener but followed with losses to Iowa and ranked foes Michigan State and Michigan. However, the Badgers bounced back with a 67-62 win at Purdue on Jan. 12 to begin their five-game winning stretch and build some momentum in a league that has blossomed into one of the toughest in the country.
"We just had to keep believing that we have a good team,'' forward Jared Berggren said. "We really believe that. Despite the struggles at the start of the Big Ten, we knew what we had here. We knew we had guys that weren't going to give up easy.''
A consistently tough defense has paced the Badgers, who lead the nation in scoring defense (49.6 points per game) and opponent shooting (36.3 percent). Wisconsin foes are shooting just 26.8 percent from 3-point range.
"I just like the grit in this group,'' Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
The Badgers showed that grit when they overcame a dismal 39.6-percent shooting effort - including 4 of 17 from beyond the arc - to hold then-No. 16 Indiana to its fewest points of the season in a 57-50 home win Thursday.
"When shots aren't going down, you've got to rely on your defense a little bit,'' said the 6-foot-10 Berggren, who had four points but blocked five shots.
Wisconsin's defense, however, was unable to bail out its struggling offense while losing two of three to Penn State last season. The Badgers shot 42.3 percent during a 56-52 loss Jan. 29, 2011, that snapped their six-game road winning streak against the Nittany Lions.
Wisconsin shot 54.3 percent in a 76-66 home win over Penn State on Feb. 20, but went 15 of 51 from the field in a 36-33 loss to the Nittany Lions in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.
Though Penn State (10-12, 2-7) has dropped two straight and seven of nine, the Badgers know they can't underestimate the hosts Tuesday as they try to win three consecutive Big Ten road games for the first time since 2007-08.
The Nittany Lions shot a combined 32.5 percent while losing their last two contests at No. 20 Indiana on Jan. 22 and third-ranked Ohio State on Wednesday. However, they upset then-No. 22 Illinois 54-52 at home Jan. 19 to improve to 8-4 at home.
Penn State is looking to win consecutive Big Ten home games against ranked opponents for the second straight season.
"We are going to keep playing hard, and (our fans are) going to be there for us through the bad times and the good," guard Matt Glover told Penn State's official website.
Junior guard Tim Frazier ranks second in the conference averaging 17.9 points. Playing in the shadow of star teammate Talor Battle, Frazier totaled 22 points but made 8 of 13 shots in three games versus Wisconsin last season.
He'll face off against Badgers star Jordan Taylor (13.9 ppg) who has averaged 16.3 points in his last four contests against Penn State.