After a really tough stretch for Wisconsin, the Badgers have played more like the team they are capable of being, winning three in a row after defeating Northwestern on the road, 70-64.
Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson got the scoring going for the Badgers, including a beautiful dish from Happ to Iverson for an easy lay-in. Scottie Lindsey would carry Northwestern in the first half, but the story early was some bench bigs for the Badgers getting rare minutes, and making the most of them.
Junior power forwards Andy Van Vliet and Alex Illikainen both confidently stepped into three pointers, making three from deep and one respectively, en route to 14 points from the two in the first half. Wisconsin’s 2015 class gets a bad rap, but actually contributed 29 of the Badgers’ 38 points in the first half, thanks to eight from Brevin Pritzl and seven from Khalil Iverson as well.
Both ends of the floor suffered when Happ went to the bench, as Northwestern got a couple easy buckets and Wisconsin didn’t make a field goal for over four minutes. Happ and Iverson returned after a quick break, and Iverson threw down one of his biggest jams of the season.
Brad Davison added five assists in the first half, and the Badgers shot over 60% and led 38-32 at the break.
Wisconsin’s opening to the second half wasn’t quite as efficient as the first, as the Badgers opened 1/4 and scored just two points in the first four minutes. Wisconsin then went on a 7-0 run to go up 49-43, keyed by Happ and the man of the night, Andy Van Vliet, who hit his fourth three of the evening.
Davison picked up his third foul on a questionable blocking call, and had to go to the bench shortly. Happ was able to help weather the storm with Davison on the bench, and Iverson kept up his great play to help put the Badgers up 54-51 with under eight minutes to go in regulation.
Scottie Lindsey was then fouled on a three by Iverson with Northwestern down 60-55, and hit all three shots from the charity stripe to bring the Wildcats within two, 60-58, with under four minutes left in regulation. Iverson then turned the ball over on the baseline, and Northwestern had the momentum in the moment.
With Wisconsin up 65-64 with under a minute to go, Brevin Pritzl hit a clutch three as the shot clock nearly went down to put the Badgers up 68-64, and essentially ice it for Wisconsin.
Happ finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, but Iverson and Van Vliet were also huge with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Wisconsin improves to 7-10 in Big Ten play, and will host second-ranked Michigan State in Madison on Sunday.