Kaminsky, No. 4 Badgers overwhelm Penn State 89-72
MADISON, Wis. (AP) Once the ball gets into the paint, No. 4 Wisconsin can be tough to stop.
Few teams in the country can match the Badgers' athleticism in the frontcourt. Starters Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker asserted control in the second half of an 89-72 win on Wednesday in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Kaminsky, a preseason All-American, had 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Hayes paced Wisconsin with 21 points. Dekker added 17 points.
Together, they were a combined 21 of 32 from the field for a squad that shot a blistering 63 percent overall.
''We got paint touches. When we get it into the paint, obviously it puts a strain on the defense trying to stop it,'' Dekker said.
Wisconsin (13-1) capped an 8-2 run to open the second half with Traevon Jackson's 3 to make it a 13-point lead with 17 minutes left.
A feel-good start to the season for Penn State (12-2) came to a halt. The Nittany Lions had built their best record since 1995 behind D.J. Newbill, the Big Ten's leading scorer at 21.4 points a game.
Newbill finished with 29, but he didn't get enough help. Shep Garner and Geno Thorpe each added 11 points.
The Nittany Lions shot 44 percent over the final 20 minutes after staying step-for-step for much of the first period by shooting 64 percent. Newbill spearheaded Penn State with an array of drives and off-balance jumpers.
Slowly, Wisconsin figured out the screen plays that led to open looks for Penn State.
''They were making tough jumpers. There were three or four shots in the first half where the ball touched, I thought, 90 percent of the rim and went down,'' Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. ''So does it revert to the mean usually? Most times it does.''
On the other end, Wisconsin shot 70 percent in the second half against a team that prides itself on defense. Penn State was holding foes to 37 percent shooting coming into the afternoon.
''That's our staple,'' coach Patrick Chambers said. ''I did not expect this offensive onslaught. I expected a down and dirty game.''
But the Badgers were on their way to another blowout win by midway through the second half, when Kaminsky had already secured his sixth double-double of the season.
Kaminsky, Dekker and Hayes can score from anywhere on the court. Chambers said they were tough matchups especially when Penn State's big men had to try to defend them.
''They're very difficult to guard, especially for traditional (centers) who aren't used to guarding on the perimeter,'' Chambers said. ''There's the mismatch.''
The Badgers looked a little lethargic early, just like the crowd at the Kohl Center for a game that started at noon on New Year's Eve.
A timeout with about 8 minutes to go in the half seemed to get Wisconsin going after falling behind by three.
Dekker's 3 with about 5 minutes in the half gave the Badgers the lead for good at 32-30. Dekker waved his arms frantically as he ran down the floor on defense, imploring the hometown fans to get loud.
''It was a little dull in there in the first half so I was trying to get them going a little bit. We've just got to create that energy ourselves,'' Dekker said. ''But sometimes I like getting the crowd into it. We feed off of it and makes us a little more excited to be out there.''
Penn State: The 10-game winning streak was Penn State's longest since 1995. ... The Nittany Lions missed their first three shots but went 16 of 22 the rest of the first half.
Wisconsin: Dekker was averaging 15.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in the last four games coming into the matchup. He's moving well again after being slowed by an ankle injury. ... Badgers won their sixth straight in the series, having last lost to Penn State in a low-scoring 36-33 contest on March 11, 2011, in the Big Ten tournament.
Penn State plays at Rutgers on Saturday.
Wisconsin visits Northwestern on Sunday.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP