Looking to rebound against Penn State

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoDuring the course of the past week, the Badgers have lost their first conference game, lost to independent unranked North Dakota State, lost two major contributors off the bench, one for the duration of the season and have lost their shooting touch (shooting 29.7 percent from the field).Wednesday night, against Penn State, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team hopes to find some answers and get its season back on track. Historically, the Nittany Lions are as good a remedy as an ailing team can find, as the boys from Happy Valley have finished below .500 in the Big Ten every year since the 1997-98 season (8-8), including last year’s 1-15 effort.However it appears as if that is not the case this season, as the Nittany Lions (10-6, 2-3 Big Ten) are the most improved team in the conference, having already doubled last season’s league win total. Consequently, a word that constantly came up when discussing Penn State with UW players was ‘dangerous.'”They are just hungrier. They come out every game ready to play and with something to prove,” sophomore guard Michael Flowers said. “They play with a lot of passion and a lot of heart and when you have those two things, you are a dangerous team.””If you read into the game and not just look at the box scores, they have played some tough games and played them all the way out. Those are the kind of teams that are going to be dangerous because teams are going to come in all loose and expect to win,” said junior forward Alando Tucker.One reason for the sudden change in quality of play has been maturity. Penn State returns five players who started at least ten games a year ago, led by sophomore forward Geary Claxton, who is among the Big Ten’s best in scoring (15.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg).”We know they have a pretty good player in Claxton. He is a real active kid,” sophomore Kammron Taylor said. “He has really improved from last year to this year.”Penn State has also benefited from the addition of some fresh faces, most notably freshman of the year candidate Jamelle Cornley. A true freshman from Columbus, Ohio, Cornley is averaging 13.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, both second best on the team. Since conference play has started, Cornley has played even better, averaging 16.0 points a night, best on the Nittany Lion roster. “It’s tough to contribute [as a freshman] on and off the court,” said forward Joe Krabbenhoft, who like Cornley is also making major contributions in their first year out of high school.Still, for all that Penn State brings to the table, the Badgers realize that they first and foremost have to clean up their own game and before they can truly worry about anybody else’s.”I, myself and the team, we really have to put this behind us,” Taylor said. “We have a great chance to fight to be at the top of the Big Ten.””We need to tune things up and play the way we know how to play,” freshman walk-on Kevin Gullikson said.In the end, the determining factor of the game will be whether or not the Badgers can not only regain their shooting touch, but their confidence along with it. “Right now they’re playing their best basketball, so they’re coming in with a heck of a lot of confidence,” head coach Bo Ryan said. “What our guys better do is make sure that we haven’t lost any.”Tucker unmasked: One change that Badger fans are sure to notice is that Tucker will be without the mask that he has been forced to wear since the second half of the Wake Forest game Nov. 29. Tucker expects to be free of the facial protector for Wednesday night’s contest.”I consulted with the medical staff and I told them I felt good. It looks like right now that it is in the past.”last_img read more