Penn State basketball went through an overhaul with Micah Shrewsberry bailing for the now 7-11 Notre Dame.
The team that advanced to the second round of the tournament last year saw three players head to the NBA, another three out of eligibility and then lost four guys to the transfer portal. Shrewsberry also took Penn State’s entire recruiting class for 2023, leaving them with just one last-minute signee.
When Mike Rhoades was brought in, he had to again build the roster around new transfers in while retaining just three scholarship players.
His program certainly took lumps, like the 76-67 loss to Bucknell, the first time that Penn State had lost to a team ranked outside the top 300 in decades.
They’ve also been getting that Penn State whistle in a lot of games, so there were games where no contact is called a foul on Penn State and where a guy assaulting a Penn State player is deemed a clean play. You could argue that this biased officiating has lead directly to losses against Maryland, Northwestern and Georgia Tech (the Georgia Tech one is not up for debate, the refs absolutely stole a win for Penn State there clear as day).
Despite an 8-9 record that probably should have look more like an 11-6 one and a tough loss to the number two team in the country just four days ago, Mike Rhoades had his guys believing.
When the number 11 team in the land, Wisconsin, arrived in Happy Valley on Tuesday, they didn’t know what they were in for.
Penn State started fast and got out to a 12-2 lead to start the game out.
Though Wisconsin chipped away at the lead and got it to a back and forth game, the Badgers would not take their first lead of the game until there was only 5:01 remaining in the second half.
That lead lasted a total of 17 seconds. With 4:44 left in the game, Penn State tied the game back up and then took the lead for good.
Though the Nittany Lions did not lead the game in most of the typical categories like rebounds, free throws, free throw % or 3PT %, their defense was astounding as they easily dominated the game in terms of steals, blocks and points off turnovers.
Nick Kern fouled out late in the second half and Wahab and Baldwin both wound up having to play some more conservative basketball down the stretch with four fouls of their own (Wahab had three before halftime).
It’s tough with the whistle Penn State gets, but the one area this game made it clear these guys will need to continue to improve in is not taking stupid fouls where they aren’t necessary.
Despite that penalty trouble, the Nittany Lions felt in control almost the entire game and handed Wisconsin their first conference loss on the season.
The students stormed the court and the players said in their press conference after the game that they were certainly feeling the love. It’s a feeling they hope they can continue to create.