With about 28 seconds left and a one-point lead in Tuesday night’s game against North Carolina State, D’Mitrik Trice was all alone with his defender near half court with the shot clock winding down. Without many options, Trice went one-on-one and shook his defender just enough to get the shot off from a step inside the three-point line. The result? Nothing but net, and the Badgers largest lead of the game to that point of three points, which was just enough to get the home victory, 79-75.
“Look, he’s a good player,” said NC State head coach Kevin Keatts of Trice. “He made a big play for his team.”
The next defensive possession, Brad Davison took his fourth charge of the game with 18 seconds left, and Trice and Davison were able to ice the game with free throws to give the Badgers the 79-75 win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
It wasn’t always pretty for the Badgers, who were fighting for a win to avoid starting a losing streak. Wisconsin was outscored in the paint, an area that they usually dominate with Ethan Happ. On Tuesday night, however, Happ wasn’t his usual efficient and versatile self, missing more shots than he made, but still leading the team with 19 points and had another double-double.
To get the win over the Wolfpack, it took another stellar night from D’Mitrik Trice who had 18 points on 4/5 shooting from distance. Trice came into the game shooting over 57 percent from deep. Aleem Ford hit his first three of the year coming off of an injury, and then hit three more to score 12 points and provided some huge moments for Wisconsin. Davison also chipped in 12 points, and freshman Kobe King notably played 30 minutes.
“It was just a team win,” said Happ. “I don’t know if it would have been like that last year.”
The Badgers struggled mightily on the offensive end early against North Carolina State. Wisconsin turned it over seven times in the first half; the Badgers average just nine turnovers per game (good enough for eighth in the nation). Happ scored on the first possession, and then made just two of his next ten shots.
Despite the Badgers struggling in two areas where they are normally successful, Happ and taking care of the ball, they were able to hang around. Eventually, the three ball started falling for Wisconsin. The Badgers had one stretch where five of their six field goals were from beyond the arch.
To start it off Happ ran the length of the court against NC State’s full-court press and kicked it out to Brad Davison for a trey. D’Mitrik Trice hit a pair of threes a few minutes apart and gave the Badgers the lead back, 22-21. A couple possessions later, Aleem Ford knocked down his first triple. To cap it off, Davison hit one from Curry range to tie it at 28-28.
Even though the Badgers had their brief three-point barrage, NC State still controlled the first half as they led for nearly 14 minutes in the half. Markell Johnson hit a buzzer-beating three to give his team the 36-29 advantage going into the break. Wisconsin went scoreless from the field for the final 4:27 of the half.
Markell Johnson, who hit a buzzer-beater before halftime, hit another three on the first possession of the second half. NC State started out on a 5-0 run to give them their largest lead of the game of 12 points.
Wisconsin would get it back to a six-point deficit, and then a crazy shooting display broke out in Madison. On seven possessions, six consecutive threes were converted, three by each team. Ford hit two for the Badgers and Trice knocked down one, giving them each three treys for the game, but at the end of it, the Badgers were still down six. Markell Johnson ended the long-range shooting spree with his third triple as well.
The Badgers fell back down ten points after a 4-0 personal run by C.J. Bryce, but Trevor Anderson answered for the Badgers in the UW-Green Bay transfers’ best offensive stretch as a Badger with a 5-0 personal run of his own. Khalil Iverson found Anderson under the hoop for an easy lay-in. After a Happ block, the Badgers executed a beautiful fastbreak in which three passes were made without the ball touching the ground, and it found Anderson wide open in the corner for three.
The two teams continued to trade baskets with NC State holding a slight edge until the 2:18 mark when Happ put in a soft right hook to take a 72-71 lead, the Badgers first lead of the second half. Of course, the Wolfpack answered right back with a bucket as the shot clock expired by Brice to take back the lead, again.
But soon after the Bryce bucket, it was Trice time and the Badgers moved on to 6-1 on the young season. Wisconsin hit their last six field goals of the game and ended the game on a 15-6 run.
“It took us a long time to get six wins last season,” said Happ. “I think that’s attributed to the experience we’ve gotten from a lot of our younger guys who didn’t play as much. That and playing team basketball and not relying on one or two options and having everyone able to contribute.”
“They’ve shown they can win in different ways,” Greg Gard said of his team. “We have been able to find different ways and that’s usually the sign of a good team.”
Up next, the Badgers have an early-season Big Ten battle with Iowa in Iowa City on Friday at 7 p.m.