Although a Big Ten title appears out of reach, Wisconsin seems to have recaptured the winning formula that sparked its outstanding season-opening run.
The 14th-ranked Badgers look to continue their late-season push Sunday, though they can't afford to look past a Penn State team seeking its second straight home win over a ranked opponent.
An uncharacteristically potent offense and typically strong defensive effort keyed Wisconsin's rise to No. 3 in the AP poll and a 16-0 start before the squad lost its way during a 1-5 stretch that all but bumped them from the Big Ten title race.
The Badgers (23-5, 10-5) averaged 66.0 points while allowing 69.2 per game and a 48.3 field-goal percentage over that rough patch. Since then, they've gotten back on track by scoring 72.7 per game while limiting opponents to a 64.2 average and a 42.8 field-goal percentage during a six-game winning streak.
"We know what we can do," coach Bo Ryan said, "we just have to do it."
Though Ryan's team shot just 26 percent in the first half Tuesday and trailed 29-19 against visiting Indiana, Wisconsin responded by hitting 62 percent of its attempts in the final 20 minutes en route to a 69-58 victory.
Sam Dekker led the way with 16 points, while Traevon Jackson added 14. Dekker, averaging a team-high 13.6 points, has scored 15.3 and pulled down 9.0 rebounds per game while hitting 56.7 percent of his shots in his last three.
"(Ryan) kind of put it into me to play hard, play aggressive and when you do that, good things happen," said Dekker, who hit all four shots in the second half after going 1 for 3 in the first.
Frank Kaminsky will try to bounce back after finishing with 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting Tuesday. The junior had averaged 21.0 points and shot 60.5 percent over his previous three.
Wisconsin may be able to continue its recent production against the Nittany Lions (14-14, 5-10), who allow a league-high 72.2 points per game.
While the Badgers need plenty of help to move ahead of first-place Michigan, they're within striking distance of Michigan State for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament.
They'll first have to get past a scrappy Penn State team that had dropped four of five before sweeping the season series from No. 22 Ohio State with a 65-63 home win Thursday.
D.J. Newbill finished with 23 points and Tim Frazier added 16 to help the Lions hold off a late rally. They're 2-3 against ranked opponents this season with both victories coming over the Buckeyes.
"I think we were mad," coach Patrick Chambers said, noting losses to Iowa and Nebraska by a combined 25 points in the previous two games. "It just happened to be Ohio State."
Frazier needs just two rebounds to join Iowa's Jeff Horner (2003-06) as the only players in Big Ten history to reach 1,000 points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds.
Newbill - three points away from becoming Penn State's 31st 1,000-point scorer - has averaged 20.7 points on 52.6 percent shooting in the last three games.
The junior guard had 22 points in the last meeting in Happy Valley on March 10, but Jackson countered with 15 and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave Wisconsin a 63-60 victory.
The Badgers have won 17 of the last 19 meetings overall and eight of nine in University Park.
The Associated Press News Service
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