Frank Kaminsky continues to lead the charge for Wisconsin, but the Badgers are far from a one-man show.
On the verge of its longest Big Ten winning streak in seven seasons, No. 5 Wisconsin goes for a 20th victory in 22 games against Penn State as these teams meet at University Park on Wednesday night.
The first-place Badgers (23-2, 11-1) are looking every bit like the team to beat in the Big Ten. They lead the country in offensive efficiency with 125.5 points per 100 possessions and rank near the top with 55.9 points allowed per game.
Wisconsin has outscored opponents by an average of 15.1 points during an eight-game run after a 68-49 rout of Illinois on Sunday. Kaminsky made eight of his first nine shots en route to 17 first-half points before finishing with 23 and 11 rebounds.
Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes combined to score 23 of their 29 over the final 20 minutes as Kaminsky was held scoreless over a 16-minute stretch.
“Our guys really don’t go out there and say, `OK, let’s make sure Frank gets his X number of points and then we’ll go get ours,'” coach Bo Ryan said. “We took what they gave us. That’s all we ever do.”
Wisconsin is seeking its longest run in league play since winning 10 straight Feb. 13-March 16, 2008, including all three games in the conference tournament.
Kaminsky is fourth in the Big Ten with 17.6 points per game and second in rebounding (8.4). The Badgers have won 16 in a row when he plays.
“He’s one of the best players in the country, if not the best,” teammate Josh Gasser said. “He can do so many things and he’s really hard to scout. If you take one or two things away from him, he’s got two or three more things that he can attack you with. Plus, he’s such a good passer for being a 7-footer. … He’s so versatile, it’s nearly impossible to guard him.”
Hayes scored a team-high 21 points while Kaminsky added 18 and 14 boards in an 89-72 rout of Penn State on Dec. 31. The Badgers have taken six straight and 19 of 21 in the series, and they’ve won 20 in a row when scoring at least 60 points.
The Nittany Lions (15-11, 3-10) are giving up 65.9 per game to rank 13th in the conference, and they’ve been limited to an average of 60.0 in dropping four of five. Penn State, set to face its third consecutive ranked foe, is coming off Saturday’s 76-73 loss to then-No. 19 Maryland.
D.J. Newbill scored 25 points and Geno Thorpe added 17, but the Nittany Lions dropped to 0-4 against ranked opponents despite erasing a 13-point deficit.
“It is brutal. The kids are playing their butts off and doing some really great things,” said a frustrated coach Patrick Chambers, whose postgame comments cost the school a $10,000 fine. “Tonight was a really gutty, gritty effort from the guys. These (losses) are tough to swallow. Moral victories are no longer acceptable here.”
Newbill ranks among the nation’s leading scorers with 20.8 points per game, and he’s averaging 24.7 over a three-game stretch in the series. He scored 29 in the Dec. 31 defeat.
“He’s always got the green light and he’s going to get his shots; he’s got a variety of moves,” Gasser said. “It’s hard to guard him because you have to play him for the 3-point shot, but he has the ability to get into the lane where he can use his strength to finish through contact.”
Penn State has dropped 16 of its last 17 against top five teams.