The Badgers took care of the Golden Eagles in the second half on Saturday. Here are three takeaways from the win.
Happ’s importance to this team is undeniable
Coming into this highly anticipated season, Wisconsin sophomore big man Ethan Happ was certainly known to be a key piece to the Badgers’ potential success. If Happ could stay healthy and avoid foul trouble throughout the season, he could add a whole different dimension to the team on both ends of the floor.
Happ picked up two fouls in the first two minutes on Saturday, and was forced to sit out the remainder of the first half, leaving his team trailing 40-35 at the half, to a talented but mostly inexperienced Marquette team. When Happ returned in the second half, the big man played like he had something to prove, picking up four points and three rebounds in the first four minutes and helping the Badgers tie it up at 44. Other than a late surge by the Golden Eagles, it was pretty much smooth sailing for the Badgers the rest of the way with Happ on the floor, who finished with 11 points, five boards, two assists and a block in just 17 minutes. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year made it much tougher for the Golden Eagles to score in the paint, and on the other end, Marquette had no answer for Happ, who scored at will shooting 63% from the floor and making his presence felt throughout.
Iverson is much more than just a spark plug
Wisconsin sophomore Khalil Iverson, known for his incredible athleticism and ferocious dunks, is becoming much more of a complete player before our eyes, which is not only a nice storyline for the Badgers early in the season, but something that teams will really have to look out for, as Iverson has looked unstoppable at times this season. Iverson had a couple dunks and big blocks that fans are accustomed to seeing now, but also produced likely the best game of his young career when the team really needed it, especially with star big man Ethan Happ in foul trouble. The 6-5 guard not only played more than anyone else on the bench with 25 minutes, but had an incredibly efficient stat line with a career-high 16 points on 5/6 from the field, five rebounds, two blocks, and an assist. Iverson continues to look more confident out on the floor and not force anything, as he also hit an open three-pointer in the game. If the young guard can add this shot consistently to his arsenal, he will be even more of a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.
“Big brother always rises back to the top”
In this matchup with in-state rival Marquette, “big brother” (Wisconsin) came out on the right side of the score, as they have three of four times with Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown on the team. The Marquette community is known to get up more for this rivalry, as they are considered the “little brother” by many in the state, but this year was different. Both teams came in ready to play, but Wisconsin had an extra chip this time. Not just for the label or the title, but because the Badgers lost to the Golden Eagles last year on the Kohl Center floor, and that needed to be avenged in the last year for these seniors. Marquette shot well from deep, especially in the first half, when they had the lead. But when Ethan Happ returned for the 17th ranked Badgers in the second half, the talent and experience of Wisconsin was just too much for a younger and smaller Marquette team. The Badgers had six players in double figures, the starters and Iverson off the bench, and rode this balanced attack to a 93-84 win in the I-94 rivalry game. As Wisconsin star senior Nigel Hayes stated after the contest, “Water levels, and big brother always rises back to the top.”