Ed DeChellis didn't mince words when he talked about what Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer mean to the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team.
"When both of those guys are scoring like they are, that's very hard," the Penn State coach said after the Badgers' senior forwards each scored 22 points to lead the Badgers to a 76-66 victory over the Nittany Lions Sunday evening at the Kohl Center.
Add the attention defenses must give junior point guard Jordan Taylor and DeChellis said it's a tough task to try and stop the No. 10 Badgers (20-6, 10-4 Big Ten), who remained entrenched in third place in the Big Ten Conference standings and stayed undefeated at home this season with the win.
"So that's very good offense for them; when they have those three guys scoring, especially those two senior forwards," DeChellis added. "They are a tough match."
The 6-foot-8 Nankivil, who is most dangerous from the perimeter, and 6-10 Leuer, who is most dangerous when he's scoring from the post, never scored more points together in one game.
They combined to make 16 of 23 shots overall and six of eight 3-pointers. Leuer also added 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
The Badgers' guards weren't bad, either. Taylor had 13 points and seven assists and freshman Josh Gasser added 11 points and five assists.
"It makes it a lot more fun for everyone else just seeing not only the guards hit shots but also the bigs," said Gasser. "Once we can do that, we got a little rhythm there and everybody gets more comfortable in the offense and it's tough to guard."
The Badgers continued their torrid shooting at home as they shot 54.3 percent overall (25 of 46) and 53.3 percent from 3-point range (8 of 15). It marked the third straight game at the Kohl Center when they shot above 50 percent overall and from 3.
They needed it, too, because a late explosion by senior guard Talor Battle, who had a game-high 23 points, helped Penn State (14-12, 7-8) become the first UW opponent this season to shoot above 50 percent overall and from 3-point range at the Kohl Center.
"He's dangerous out there. He's tough to stop," Gasser said of Battle, who helped the Nittany Lions slice into a 19-point deficit by scoring 14 points in the final 4:17.
"He took quite a bit of shots to get his points, which is what we kind of wanted him to do," Gasser added. "At the same time we kind of gave him a little too much at the end there. It's hard to shut him down."
Nankivil made all four shot attempts in the first half to help the Badgers build a 32-19 halftime lead. And that was despite Nankivil leaving the game momentarily after injuring his ankle when he landed on a defender's foot while making his final first-half shot.
He returned for the second half and completed a rare four-point play while scoring nine points during a run that lifted the Badgers to a 51-34 lead with 11:07 to go.
"He's a rhythm shooter and when he gets in a rhythm he's as good a shooter as anybody is in the country," Leuer said of Nankivil. "And he got aggressive tonight, too.
"Anytime he was touching it, he was catching and facing and putting pressure on the defense. If he wasn't shooting it, they'd have to fly to him and then he makes an extra pass. He got into a rhythm tonight and we knew we just had to get him the ball."
UW coach Bo Ryan liked his team's effort. "I still don't like the seven turnovers our guys had, but I thought we moved the ball well," he said.
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