Date: Friday, March 11
Time: 8:55 EST
TV: Big Ten Network
The Penn State Nittany Lions opened their 2011 Big Ten Tournament slate with a bang Thursday, holding off the Indiana Hoosiers late to record a 61-55 first round victory. Penn State will look to edge closer to the NCAA tournament discussion as they roll into their third meeting of the season with the third-seeded Wisconsin Badgers on Friday at 8:55 EST.
Though the Lions knocked off the Badgers in Happy Valley in the season's first meeting, Wisconsin cruised to a recent 76-66 victory at the Kohl Center behind 22 points from both Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil.
So what's at stake in Friday night's late game? The Nittany Lions almost assuredly need another win to edge closer to the at-large discussion, while the Badgers will play for tournament seeding and could likely land anywhere from a three to a five seed come Selection Sunday, depending on conference tournament results. Wisconsin will look to erase the taste of March 6's demolition at the hands of Jon Diebler's hot three-point shooting and advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in three years.
While Thursday's win over the Hoosiers was crucial to the Nittany Lions' flickering hopes of earning their first tournament berth in a decade, a victory over the nation's 13th-ranked team may provide the bump Penn State needs to get on the right side of the bubble. In both matchups this season, Talor Battle has been the catalyst for the Nittany Lions, tallying 22 points in the Upset in Happy Valley (with 20 coming in the second half) and 23 in a losing effort in Madison.
Both Wisconsin and Penn State have overachieved on their home courts this season; the Nittany Lions notched three wins over top-20 opponents while the Badgers turned in another undefeated season at the Kohl Center. The road has been less than kind, with all seven Wisconsin defeats coming outside Madison, including a 58-51 loss to Notre Dame on a neutral floor.
Penn State has the tools to keep it close as the Badgers struggle to shoot a high percentage on a neutral court, but ultimately Jordan Taylor and Wisconsin salt this one away and advance to the Big Ten Tournament's third day. Wisconsin 64, Penn State 56.