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Kaminsky keys Wisconsin’s win over Penn State

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Penn State’s top player had the Nittany Lions on the verge of a big upset Wednesday before Wisconsin’s top player stepped up and helped deliver the fifth-ranked Badgers their ninth straight victory.

Forward Frank Kaminsky had four crucial points to answer a big Penn State run and forward Sam Dekker scored a career-high 22 points to help the Badgers offset a huge night by Nittany Lions guard D.J. Newbill in Wisconsin’s 55-47 win in the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.

“Penn State’s right there,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. “That’s as hard as any team we’ve played.”

The Badgers’ 24-2 start is the best in program history.

Newbill had 29 points on 13 of 21 shooting and assisted on three of Penn State’s other eight field goals. He had seven points during a 13-2 Penn State run that pulled the Nittany Lions to within five with 4:08 remaining.

“They cut it to five and we had the ball,” said Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, whose team has lost five of six games. “That’s a huge accomplishment for this group. (Wisconsin) had a huge lead and we didn’t give up. We kept competing and we kept fighting. … It was just a little too late.”

Penn State had a chance to get even closer, but Newbill, trying to dribble around a screen by Ross Travis, got his foot caught up with the forward and tripped, losing the ball to Kaminsky. The senior forward hit two free throws after being fouled on the break, then coaxed in a tough one-handed jumper on the next possession to make it 52-43 with 2:19 remaining, and the Badgers escaped despite shooting 39 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range.

Kaminsky finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Forward Nigel Hayes had nine points and 13 rebounds for the Badgers, who shot just 39 percent from the floor and 23 percent from 3-point range.

Forward Brandon Taylor was the next highest scorer for Penn State (15-12, 3-11 Big Ten) after Newbill, with seven points. Guard Geno Thorpe had six.

Dekker had 13 points and center Kaminsky had 10 as Wisconsin took a 31-24 first-half lead over Penn State.

The Badgers started hot, sinking eight of their first 11 shots from the field and jumping out to a 20-10 lead in the first eight minutes. Kaminsky and Dekker were both 3 of 3 during that stretch.

“Fortunately, we were hot early to at least be able to get something going,” Ryan said. “We just kept trying to get stops on the other end. If Newbill wants to get a shot, he’s going to get a shot. … The key was trying to make sure nobody else got hot.”

Wisconsin then went cold, though, going nearly 10 minutes without a field goal. Penn State, led by a huge half from Newbill, closed to 24-21 with two Newbill free throws with 2:28 left before the Badgers responded with a five-point possession.

Dekker scored on a drive and was fouled on the shot. He missed the ensuing free throw, but the ball went out of bounds to Wisconsin, which led to a Dekker 3-pointer.

Newbill had 16 of the Nittany Lions’ 24 first-half points, hitting six of his first seven shots from the floor. He was the only Penn State player to score until Taylor connected on a 3-pointer with 5:04 left in the half.

It has been a frustrating season for the Big Ten’s leading scorer, who led his team to a 12-1 start but hasn’t been able to come up with clutch plays for a team that’s lost nine games by single digits this season.

“I’m just trying to get a win,” Newbill said. “The points mean nothing to me if we lose the game.”

NOTES: Wisconsin’s last three wins against Penn State in the Bryce Jordan Center were by six, three and five points, respectively. Eight of the last 12 games in the series, including Wednesday’s, have been decided by fewer than 10 points. … The Badgers entered Wednesday night’s game with eight straight Big Ten wins, their longest conference winning streak since 1941. Wisconsin’s 11-1 conference start is its best since 1914. … Penn State has played five top-25 teams this season, including each of the last

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