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Backup leads No. 19 Wisconsin past pesky Penn State | TribLIVE.com
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Backup leads No. 19 Wisconsin past pesky Penn State

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AP
Penn State’s Josh Reaves, left, and Jamari Wheeler battle against Wisconsin’s Brad Davison, center, for a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 61-57.

MADISON, Wis. — As Brevin Prtizl stepped to the free-throw line with less than 2 seconds left and the game all but won, the chant rained down from the student section: “MVP! MVP!”

He promptly missed.

It was the only blemish on an otherwise stellar day. Pritzl came off the bench to score 17 points Saturday and lead No. 19 Wisconsin past Penn State, 61-57.

The junior has long had a reputation as one of the team’s best shooters but is sometimes hesitant to fire. Coming into this game, he was averaging less than 5 points for the Badgers (20-9, 12-6 Big Ten).

But he hit all five of his field-goal attempts, including four 3-pointers, and was 3 of 4 from the line. He also scored 14 of his points in the second half as the Badgers climbed out of an early hole.

“He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen,” Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ said. “I tell him all the time. ‘Stop passing the ball. Shoot the ball.’ “

Pritzl was also involved in a no-call in the closing seconds that helped deny Penn State (12-17, 5-13) a chance to tie.

Held without a field goal for the final eight minutes, the Nittany Lions still had a chance with 14 seconds left, down 59-57.

After a timeout, Penn State’s Rasir Bolton tried to throw the ball to Lamar Stevens at the elbow. But Wisconsin’s Khalil Iverson tipped it away, and the referees ruled it went off Stevens’ hand. After a review, the ball stayed with Wisconsin.

Nate Reuvers was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play but converted just one at the free throw line, leaving the door open for the Nittany Lions again. But there was a collision between Bolton and Pritzl near the sideline with less than 2 seconds left. No foul was called, and the referees ruled the ball went off Bolton.

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said the Badgers weren’t trying to foul intentionally in that situation, up three, and Pritzl said Bolton initiated the contact.

But Penn State coach Pat Chambers argued after the game Bolton should have been awarded three free throws, believing he made a shooting motion after the contact.

“It’s unfortunate the players can’t decide the game, but it is what it is,” Chambers said. “We’ve got to move on. We won’t play the victim.”

It wasn’t a particularly pretty game offensively for either team. The Nittany Lions shot 35 percent, below their average of nearly 42 percent.

Meanwhile, take away Pritzl, and Wisconsin made just 34 percent of its field goal attempts.

Happ scored 14 for the Badgers. Stevens led Penn State with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Josh Reaves added 14.

Pritzl’s heroics might have been for naught if the Badgers hadn’t taken Gard’s halftime speech to heart. Down 33-26 at half, the Badgers were outrebounded 19-14 over the first 20 minutes. Gard said Wisconsin was simply not tough enough. Along with Pritzl’s second-half performance, Happ flipped the switch from shooting 3 for 10 in the first half to 3 of 4 in the second. He also finished with five assists.

“We didn’t win the 50-50 battle in the first half,” Gard said. “They got almost all of them, if not 90 percent of them. We were able to change that in the second half and the result showed. We played with more energy, more toughness, more physicality.”

Categories: Sports
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