Wisconsin spanks Penn State, ends losing skid

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The way things have been going lately, it's easy to forget that Wisconsin is in first place in the Big Ten.

After losing two games -- and two key reserves to academic ineligibility -- in the course of a week, the Badgers (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) rebounded with a 72-43 victory over Penn State on Wednesday night.

The Badgers (15-4, 5-1) made up for their poor shooting in Saturday's jaw-dropping home loss to North Dakota State with one of their best long-range shooting performances in recent history.

Wisconsin made 13 3-pointers, tying a Kohl Center record set Feb. 27, 2002, against Michigan.

The victory capped what was otherwise a trying week for Wisconsin.

"Adversity can reveal character, and I've certainly seen an awful lot," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said.

But, he added, "That has nothing to do with that 40 minutes between the lines."

After losing their first conference game at Ohio State last Wednesday, the Badgers shot 16-for-72, including 4-for-27 from 3-point range, in the 62-55 loss to North Dakota State.

The school also announced that reserve forwards Greg Stiemsma and Marcus Landry are academically ineligible for the rest of the season.

"Once the week started, we were past it," said forward Alando Tucker, who led the Badgers with 17 points Wednesday night. "That's what we had to prepare ourselves mentally for."

Stiemsma's absence had originally been described as a leave for personal medical reasons. But in a statement released before Wednesday's game, Stiemsma said he has been dealing with depression that affected his academic performance.

Ryan reacted strongly to a question about Stiemsma's ineligibility, insisting that his player had the same right to privacy as any state employee.

"When these young men have issues, they are just like an employee in the state system," Ryan said. "They have all the rights in the world to exhaust every option that they have. That's fair and square. And that's exactly what happened."

The Badgers shook off their shooting gremlins early, making more 3-pointers in the first 8:15 Wednesday than they did in 40 minutes on Saturday. Ray Nixon's 3-pointer with 11:45 remaining in the first half gave the Badgers a 21-5 lead.

The Badgers were 8-of-16 from 3-point range in the first half, including Tucker's shot at the buzzer that made it 40-18.

"They blew the thing open in the first half and just kind of cruised along in the second half," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said.

Tucker, Wisconsin's leading scorer, was playing without his protective face mask for first time since sustaining a nasal injury in a Nov. 29 loss at Wake Forest.

Tucker, who ditched the mask during Monday's practice, made three 3-pointers in the first half.

"Definitely," Tucker said when asked if it was a relief to play unmasked. "I could breathe. It didn't feel like I had windshield wipers."

Geary Claxton had 17 points for the Nittany Lions (10-7, 2-4), who couldn't shoot themselves back into the game, and their occasional fullcourt press failed to rattle the Badgers.

The Nittany Lions shot 18-for-54, including 7-for-22 in the first half.

Claxton's dunk brought the Nittany Lions within 48-31 with 11:28 remaining in the half, but Penn State never got any closer.

Kammron Taylor's 3-pointer gave the Badgers a 59-34 lead, and Joe Krabbenhoft's steal allowed Michael Flowers to hit another 3-pointer to extend the lead to 62-34 with 7:10 remaining.