Wisconsin earned a hard-fought victory on the road against Xavier on Tuesday night behind strong efforts from Ethan Happ and D’Mitrik Trice, winning 77-68. Happ and Trice combined for 52 points and 10 assists as the Badgers got some revenge on Xavier after an 80-70 loss in the Kohl Center last November.
Trice, back in his home state of Ohio, was on fire the entire game. The sophomore point guard scored 22 points and hit five threes, going a perfect 5/5 from beyond the arch. Trice added in five assists, commanding the offense with ease.
Happ led the Badgers in points with 30 and set a career high in field goals made with 15. Happ added 13 rebounds and five assists, steadily dominating all aspects of the game. Xavier did not have an answer for the duo. Davison was also a force in one-on-one situations and from beyond the arc, hitting four triples of his own, adding 19 points. Wisconsin only had six points outside of Happ, Trice, and Davison.
Trice got the Badgers started out early, canning two threes as the Badgers raced out to a 10-2 lead in Cincinnati. Xavier and Wisconsin both went nearly four and a half minutes without a bucket with the score knotted at 15-9, but Trice knocked down his third triple of the half to get the Badgers going again.
A smooth Ethan Happ reverse layup and-one doubled up the lead over the Musketeers, 22-11. Trice and Happ kept the Badgers offense going with the two-man game after Trice found Happ rolling to the hoop following a high ball screen, creating an easy layup for the senior center. Wisconsin held Xavier to just one field goal in over seven minutes in the middle of the first half as they built their lead. Happ scored or assisted on 19 of the first 26 points the Badgers scored.
Xavier pounded the offensive boards, allowing them to get the game back within five points with under two minutes left in the half. Zach Hankins had a nice putback slam, and on the next possession had a nice tap out that led to a Naji Marshall floater.
Happ (12), Trice (11), and Brad Davison (7) were the only Badgers to score before halftime. The Badgers went into the break holding onto a two-point lead after leading by as many as 11 points early in the first half.
Wisconsin started out the second half on a 9-2 run behind you guessed it, Trice and Happ. Happ scored on the opening play of the half with a nice left hook. Happ then found Trice in the corner for the point guard’s fourth three of the night. Two more Happ layups later (one off of a terrific feed from Trice), and the Badgers were back up 39-30 with 17 minutes to go.
The Badgers hit their first eight shots of the second half. The first seven all came from Happ, Trice, and Davison. Khalil Iverson slammed home a dunk off of a Happ pass, becoming only the fourth Badger to score on the night, to give the Badgers their biggest lead of the game 48-32 with 14:24 left.
Wisconsin continued to shoot it from deep, putting on their best Golden State Warriors impression. Davison nailed a three from the top of the key which was followed in short order by Trice’s fifth three.
The Musketeers switched to a zone defense to try to stop Wisconsin’s attack, but it really didn’t make much of a difference. Happ and company were able to find holes in the Xavier zone to keep the lead at a comfortable margin. Xavier did battle back within nine with a minute left to make things interesting, but Davison abruptly ended things with a pull-up three to put the Badgers up 72-59. Xavier continued to pest until the final buzzer, but the Badgers were able to run out the clock and secure the win.
Xavier couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end. Wisconsin’s interior defense was solid against Tyrique Jones, Xavier’s leading scorer at 18 PPG, holding him to just four points on 3 shot attempts. Wisconsin got Jones in foul trouble in the first half with two quick ones, and then he picked up two in back-to-back possessions in the second half, putting him on the bench.
Even after a big win on the road, the Badgers still have to be concerned about depth and free throw shooting. Wisconsin has guys off the bench who can play, but still need someone to prove they can score. Greg Gard received zero points from his bench on Tuesday night, and the Badgers were just 6/13 from the free throw line.
Up next, the Badgers play at home on Saturday against Houston Baptist at 7:00 p.m.