STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Heading into a key stretch and coming off a tough loss, Wisconsin needed a big performance Saturday at Penn State.
Micah Potter delivered.
The reserve forward scored 18 of his career-best 24 points in the first half and grabbed 13 rebounds, leading the Badgers to a 58-49 victory over the 20th-ranked Nittany Lions.
Brad Davison had 11 points and 13 rebounds for Wisconsin (10-6, 3-2 Big Ten), which lost 71-70 to Illinois on Wednesday night. Kobe King added 10 points.
Potter was 9 for 14 from the field in 28 minutes. The Badgers finished with 31 bench points, compared to 15 for the Nittany Lions.
“We scrimmage a lot,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “A lot of times the second five beats the first five so practices get a little fiery once in a while. It’s competitive.”
It was a sorely needed performance considering what’s coming up on Wisconsin’s schedule. The Badgers face No. 12 Maryland on Tuesday night, and then visit No. 8 Michigan State on Friday.
Lamar Stevens had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Nittany Lions (12-4, 2-3), who had won 13 in a row at home. Izaiah Brockington scored 15 points.
It was Penn State’s lowest scoring game of the season.
“We didn’t invent a new defense today,” Gard said. “We did what we always do but we did it better.”
Wisconsin never trailed and led by as many as 12 with 14:13 to play.
Myreon Jones gave Penn State some life when he hit an off-balance 3-pointer that sparked a 10-2 run that cut the Badgers’ lead to four.
But the Nittany Lions missed their next three shots, all 3-pointers, and Wisconsin got baskets on back-to-back possessions, with a 3 from Davison putting the game out of reach.
“We’ve got to make shots,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “If you would’ve told me we would hold Wisconsin to 58 points, I would’ve said we win the game.”
Both teams got off to a sluggish start. It took nearly five minutes for either team to find the basket.
The Badgers went 0 for 7 from the floor before Potter hit a layup. Potter then hit two 3s and another layup before Stevens snapped Penn State’s 0-for-12 skid with a turnaround jumper.
Brockington made a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left to cut Wisconsin’s halftime lead to 31-22.
Penn State forward Mike Watkins was held scoreless for just the fourth time in his career. He was 0 for 3 from the field in 16 minutes.
While Potter was the biggest star for Wisconsin, the Badgers have gotten contributions from up and down the lineup all season. They entered with one of the most balanced lineups in the Big Ten, with all five starters averaging over 8.5 points per game.
Penn State hadn’t scored fewer than 58 points in a game this season. Now the Nittany Lions have struggled offensively in back-to-back outings. They lost 72-61 to Rutgers on Tuesday night.
Wisconsin hosts Maryland on Tuesday.
Penn State visits Minnesota on Wednesday.
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