MADISON — Ethan Happ had himself quite the Saturday afternoon. His 32-point performance set a new career-high as he willed the Badgers to a 61-54 overtime win against Rutgers in New York.
The sophomore forward scored just over half of the team’s total points and made 12 out of the 20 total field goals the team converted. Happ also sent the game into overtime by making a bucket with just two seconds left as the team was down 45-43.
Wisconsin was trailing big late and needed a 13-4 run to send it to overtime. Happ had eight of those points and accounted for seven of the 16 overtime points.
“Against Rutgers, he really took the team and put it on his back,” Badgers assistant coach Howard Moore said. “He gave us life when we needed it. He made big plays and had special moments. He kept us in the hunt.”
Happ was all over the place Saturday, but he’s been doing it all year. At this point in the season, Happ leads the team in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and field goal percentage. Even though he’s the center, Happ is also second on the team in assists behind only Nigel Hayes.
“I remember texting my high school coach last year and telling him I wanted to be able to affect the game like I did during high school, which was being all over the place,” Happ said. “On defense getting steals and blocks. He actually texted me after the game yesterday and said you’re actually starting to do that.”
The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year has avoided the sophomore slump, as he’s improved in virtually every statistical category from last year. His freshman year, Happ averaged 12.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocks. This year, he’s averaging 14.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 steals and 1 block. He’s also increased his field goal percentage from 53.8% to 60.6%.
Happ said his improvements have been made mostly mentally through experience.
“Just learning,” Happ said of his improvement. “If you watch the beginning of last season to the end… I got better. I’ve gotten better since this season as it has went on. That’s what I want to do, just keep learning as the season goes on.”
Moore thinks it’s because of his competitiveness and hard-working nature.
“He has a tremendous work ethic,” Moore said. “He’s the first one in the gym and the last one out. Last year…he learned what he needed to get better at. This summer he put in the time and you see the production every day.”
The Badgers are away on Tuesday night as they face Illinois at 8 p.m. CT.