Ethan Happ knew without Brevin Pritzl, who was a late scratch for Tuesday, he would have to be extremely productive for the Badgers to have a chance against conference foe Indiana, now led by new head coach Archie Miller. Happ did not disappoint.
The junior forward had to do it all, and he did. Happ had a season-high of 28 points while only missing six shots. Additionally, he had nine rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Happ kept the paint on lockdown on the defensive end.
“He plays hard,” head coach Greg Gard said of Happ. “He made a lot of good things happen. It’s not always pretty…but a lot of good things can happen by just playing hard.”
Wisconsin outscored Indiana by 13 points in the second half on their way to a 71-61 victory, Wisconsin’s fifth straight win over Indiana. Greg Gard’s squad improves to 9-7 on the season and 2-1 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin shot it uncharacteristically well from the free-throw line in the second half going 13/14 to ice the game away.
Brad Davison scored 14 points, all in the second-half, to be just enough of a sidekick for the superhero that was Ethan Happ on Wednesday night. The short-handed Badgers got outscored in bench points 22-7, but had the best player on the court and that was all the advantage it needed.
“Opportunities present themselves,” Gard said of Davison’s second half performance. “I think in the first half he didn’t have the opportunities he had in the second half… He was 0/4 in the first half and he got a little confidence going in the second half. He captains our ship, so to speak.”
Happ had it going from the tip-off. He started with an and-one finish, assisted a Nate Reuvers three, had a bucket off of an offensive rebound, and a nice spin leading to a finish on the opposite side of the basket. He scored seven of the Badgers first 10 points as Wisconsin built an early lead.
But the Hoosiers would find their footing in Madison. Indiana answered with a 10-2 run and took the lead with back-to-back fastbreak layups as they held Wisconsin scoreless for nearly four minutes. Connor Hartman hit a three, his first of three in the first half, to put Indiana up 17-10.
In a game of runs, Wisconsin answered with a pair of threes via T.J. Schlundt and Aleem ford, and then two and-ones from Iverson and Happ. Happ was a force on the offensive glass in the first half to keep the Badgers within three at halftime, 33-30.
“We were really soft on the glass,” Miller said. “Second chance points changed the game.”
The Badgers dominated the first ten minutes of the second half, including a 7-0 run, as they found themselves up 51-45 with 11:41 remaining. After going scoreless in the first half, Davison came alive with seven quick points with a three-pointer, a beautiful scoop shot, and a strong take that resulted in two converted free throws. Ford hit a pair of shots from beyond the arch, and Happ got himself two easy buckets as Indiana could not defend his post moves.
Happ continued to cause problems. The All-American, after sitting out for just about 20 seconds with the score at 51-47, came in and immediately scored on back-to-back possessions. First, Happ saw an opening in the defense and drove from the left elbow to an easy lay-up on the right block. The next time down, Happ caught the entry pass with Indiana out of position and immediately turned to the rim and finished through contact, giving the Badgers their largest lead to that point of eight points.
Wisconsin held Indiana to just four field goals in the final ten minutes of the game, playing some of their best defense all year. Indiana shot just forty percent from the field in the second-half as Wisconsin came roaring all the way back and then some.
Miller said of the second half: “Wisconsin was clearly the better team.”
It was a vintage Ethan Happ and Wisconsin performance, which bodes well for the Badgers. Wisconsin held Indiana’s leading scorer Juwan Morgan scoreless in the first half and held Hartman to just 18 points after he went off for 16 in the first half.
Up next, the Badgers start a three-game road trip as they visit Rutgers on Friday.