STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team doesn’t have much time to dwell on the program’s most embarrassing loss in recent memory, and perhaps that’s a good thing.
After reviewing everything that went wrong during an 83-58 home loss to Ohio State on Saturday — and there was plenty — the Badgers quickly had to turn the page and start preparing for Penn State. The Nittany Lions (7-2, 1-0 Big Ten Conference) will host UW (3-5, 0-1) Monday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, the first Badgers’ first leg of a trip to Pennsylvania that includes a game at Temple on Wednesday.
After the humiliating loss to the Buckeyes — it was UW’s most lopsided defeat ever at the Kohl Center — junior center Ethan Happ was asked about the one-day prep for Penn State.
“I think we’ll definitely be tested by the coaching staff in practice and in film and we just all have to come together and respond in a positive way,” Happ said. “We’ve taken our lumps this season and it’s about time we start turning things around.”
Don’t be shocked if Badgers coach Greg Gard continues to tinker with his lineup. After Ohio State shot 78.3 percent from the field and averaged 1.63 points per possession in the opening 20 minutes, Gard benched junior forward Khalil Iverson in favor of sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl to start the second half.
Gard even turned to seldom-used junior guard T.J. Schlundt, a former walk-on, early in the second half after the Buckeyes continued to score at will.
Iverson, UW’s second-most experienced player behind Happ, has logged a total of 23 minutes in the past two games. Against Ohio State, he was 0-for-5 from the field and had some lapses on defense, though he was hardly alone in that regard.
During one stretch in the first half, Ohio State scored 42 points in 21 possessions. UW had only four stops during that span, allowing open looks from 3-point range and easy access to the rim.
“I think that was the one thing that stood out, specifically in the first half, was the lack of a sense of urgency from a couple specific people that allowed (Ohio State’s) momentum to get going,” Gard said.
It wasn’t easy to find bright spots in UW’s first loss to an unranked opponent this season, but Nate Reuvers qualified as one. After going 0 of 10 from the field in the first two games of his career, the freshman forward made all four of his attempts against Ohio State and finished with 10 points.
The 2017 recruiting class of Reuvers, Brad Davison and Kobe King combined for 36 of UW’s 58 points.
“It’s nice to see the ball go through the hoop,” Reuvers said. “I think that’s one of the ways I can help this team is hitting open shots and I got them to fall today. But I’ve still got to sharpen up on defense. You’ve just got to stop making as many mistakes as we did in that game.”
And soon. Penn State got 16 points and nine assists from Tony Carr during a 77-73 win at Iowa on Saturday.
Carr is one of five players averaging in double figures for the Nittany Lions, who appear to be trending upward after going 29-79 in Big Ten regular-season play in Patrick Chambers’ six seasons leading the program.
Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins — all sophomores — combined for 57 points in the win over the Hawkeyes. UW has beaten Penn State nine consecutive times, but the Badgers will go into tonight’s game as an underdog.
Five losses in a span of 17 days have left Gard’s team shell-shocked, and it’s fair to wonder how the Badgers will respond to the debacle against Ohio State.
“We all know it’s a younger team that’s going through a lot of this for the first time,” Gard said. “I know the character of the guys in the locker room, I know the type of people they are. How they rally, we’ll see. Obviously, we’ve got another tough one on Monday night with a quick turnaround, then we turn around again and play on Wednesday.
“It’ll continue to hopefully mature us. It hasn’t been the most pleasant maturation process we’re going to have to go through, and this is the first time that we’ve had maybe a sense of urgency lacking for a greater part of the game.
“Knowing these guys, it’s a good learning experience, understanding, hey, every possession game, every game, preparation, everything matters. If you half-step in any of those areas, you’re going to end up on the wrong side or looking up like we were (Saturday).”