Published March 11, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS – Talor Battle looked better than anyone else on the ugliest night in Big Ten tournament history.
The record-breaking guard finished with a team-high nine points Friday, but hit a 3-pointer and a free throw in the closing minutes to lead Penn State past No. 13 Wisconsin 36-33 in the lowest-scoring game in the 14 years of the event.
And it wasn't even close.
The previous record low was 85 points, set in 2008 when Wisconsin beat Michigan 51-34. The Badgers have now been involved in four of the tourney's six lowest-scoring games, though none was quite like this.
The Badgers' top scorers, Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, struggled all night, and it took nearly 36 minutes for Wisconsin (23-8) to put a third player in the scoring column. Taylor finished with 16 points and, fittingly, missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds to go. Leuer had 10 points.
The third-seeded Badgers, who lost their second straight for the first time in more than two years, were just 15 of 51 from the field and a dismal 2 of 21 from beyond the arc.
The No. 6 seed Nittany Lions weren't much better offensively, and the final score evoked a game from the 1930s or so, decades before there was a shot clock in college basketball.
Penn State was 13 of 39 from the field and 3 of 12 from 3-point range. But that was good enough to move into Saturday's semifinals against another upset winner, Michigan State. The Spartans knocked off No. 9 Purdue 74-56.
The Nittany Lions (18-13) opened the game with a statement by making four of their first five shots, scoring 14 straight points and not committing a turnover. And when Tim Frazier drove in for a layup with 9:58 to go, they led 18-2.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, looked more like the team that was blown out Sunday at No. 1 Ohio State than a Big Ten contender. The Badgers missed their first eight shots and many weren't even close.
Taylor threw up an airball on a 3-pointer and Leuer's shots repeatedly bounded high into the air.
It was just downright ugly.
Yet somehow, Wisconsin managed to hang around after the dreadful start and when Taylor made back-to-back baskets, the Badgers were within 20-13. Penn State didn't even make a basket over the final 9:57 of the half and still led 20-16.
Wisconsin's defense continued to give Penn State problems in the second half, and Taylor banked in a 5-footer to tie the score at 24 with 12:50 to go.
But it was Battle who closed it out, scoring on a layup, hitting a 3-pointer to break the school's career scoring record and making one for two free throws to give the Nittany Lions a 36-33 lead.
Taylor's miss and Frazier's rebound sealed it.