MADISON- After an ugly first half at the Kohl Center, Wisconsin’s leaders Ethan Happ and D’Mitrik Trice took over in the second half, and led the Badgers to a conference victory at home, 69-64, over Rutgers.
At times, Wisconsin truly struggled, but the best players on the floor stepped up when they needed to, in order for Wisconsin to improve to 8-1 on the season, and 2-0 in conference play.
Happ makes things happen
It may be cliché, but when a team has the best player on the floor, they will always have an advantage to take over the game. The Badgers are no different.
Preseason All-American Ethan Happ took over for Wisconsin when the going got tough, and led the Badgers to victory. After putting up a modest eight points and three rebounds in the first 20 minutes, Happ put up a very timely 12 points in the second half to finish with 20 for the game, his third time scoring at least 20 points on the season.
But it wasn’t just how many points, but when he got them that were so important. Every time Rutgers threatened the Badgers in the second half, the team would feed the big man, and Happ would almost always deliver, as he shot a very efficient 10/17 from the field.
In his opening statement, Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said: “Happ is a problem. He obviously has his way down low, and made things happen in the second half.”
Tonight was no exception for one of the best players in college basketball.
Trice can’t miss
One of the biggest reasons for Wisconsin’s success this season is D’Mitrik Trice. The sophomore point guard has made a big leap since his freshman season at the lead guard position, and also happens to be one of the best shooters in the country from long range.
Trice came into Monday’s matchup shooting a scorching 58% from deep, and only improved that by going 2/2 from three against Rutgers, bringing his season percentage to exactly 60%, at 30/50 on the year.
Trice has a flair for the dramatic, and always seems to hit the big shot for this team, a la Bronson Koenig for the Badgers just a few short years ago.
The Ohio native averages 17 points per game to go along with his hot shooting, and can help take this team deep in March with his strong, consistent backcourt play.
As much as Wisconsin’s stars did tonight, they could not have won without players that don’t always get as much attention, namely Khalil Iverson, Brevin Pritzl, and Nate Reuvers.
Iverson provided a huge spark for the Badgers to begin the second half, with a layup finish, followed by a steal and another layup on the fastbreak, to pull Wisconsin within a point and force a Rutgers timeout.
Brevin Pritzl showed his shooting ability with a beautiful shot from downtown, but really stepped up at the free throw line and on the glass, tying for the team lead with four rebounds on the night.
Finally, sophomore Nate Reuvers continues to improve, as he was one of just three Badgers in double figures in the victory. Reuvers finished with 10 points in the game on 4/6 shooting from the field, and coach Greg Gard praised him for being “much more aggressive in the post.”
Wisconsin is hot to start the season, and will face in-state rival Marquette on Saturday in Milwaukee.