Ryan Cline scored six of his 11 points in overtime to lift No. 14 Purdue to a 74-70 victory over Penn State on Tuesday night at State College, Pa.
Purdue is the hottest team in Big Ten play, and possibly one of the hottest teams in the country. The Nittany Lions have won the past four games against ranked opponents, but Purdue poses a different challenge with Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas eating just about everything inside, while their stable of efficient guards light up the scoreboard from outside. Purdue's five-game winning streak entering the night included wins over Michigan State, Rutgers and Northwestern, all by at least 17 points. Defensively, Penn State is yielding 71.8 points against the opposing teams.
There's certainly a sense of urgency for a young Penn State team that is 3-6 since beating Minnesota 52-50 on January 14 in State College. Junior forward Payton Banks (11.4) has knocked down 67 3-pointers - two more than Garner - while freshman forward/center Mike Watkins (9.4 points) is thriving in the interior with 69 blocked shots (fifth in school history) and a team-best average of eight rebounds per game.
"That was as hard as we've played all year", Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
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Penn State maintained the lead for the entire first half and the first nine-plus minutes of the second half.
Purdue has not finished in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten since 1996, when it won a third consecutive unshared league title.
Watkins was outmuscled in his first game against Purdue's sizable forwards when he scored just six points and grabbed only three rebounds earlier this season.
Wisconsin plays its next two on the road - at Ohio State on Thursday and at Michigan State on Sunday - before finishing with home games against Iowa on March 2 and Minnesota on March 5.
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From there the second half opened with three straight dunks for Penn State.
No. 16 Wisconsin (22-5, 11-3) now shares first place with Purdue with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Penn State takes on a Purdue team playing its best basketball of the season at Bryce-Jordan Center.
Penn State really has something special going with its wrestling program.
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