MADISON- Wisconsin came in to Saturday’s conference matchup looking to continue their win streak, and improve to 6-3 in the Big Ten. The unranked Badgers did just that with a dominating defensive effort at the Kohl Center, en route to a 62-46 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats.
Early in the game, Ethan Happ got doubled on the far side of the court, and made an incredible pass to D’Mitrik Trice for an opposite side corner three. They all count the same, but that was the epitome of what makes Happ so tough as an All-American playmaker, being able to affect the game without scoring.
This was a sign of things to come for the first half, as Happ filled the stat sheet with eight points, five assists and three rebounds. Wisconsin took a 34-24 lead into halftime, thanks to the starting backcourt of the Badgers handling most of the scoring.
Point guard D’Mitrik Trice was lights out from the field, shooting 4/4 with 11 points in the half to lead all scorers. Trice’s backcourt mate, Brad Davison, chipped in as well with 10 points and three rebounds. In the first half, Trice and Davison combined for 21 points on 72% shooting.
Wisconsin also made things difficult for Northwestern’s offense on the other end, limiting the Wildcats to 38% shooting from the field, and just 24 points. UW forced nine turnovers in the first twenty minutes of the game.
Sophomore forward Nate Reuvers struggled in the first half with zero points, two fouls, and a turnover. This came after his breakout performance on Wednesday, when he finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a win on the road against Illinois.
The second half featured some rough shooting for both teams, as Wisconsin started off 3/12 from the field, and Northwestern shot 2/15 (13%) to begin the second period. The Wildcats also did not score for over three minutes to start the half.
Happ did not have his best day from the field, shooting just 6/15 and 1/5 from the free throw line, but of course showed his impact on the game in other ways, as the All-American finished with his second triple-double of the season, with a stat line of 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Happ didn’t know he was so close to a triple-double, until right before he grabbed his tenth rebound, he shared during postgame.
“The guys on the bench were talking about it,” Happ explained, “and Mike Ballard said, ‘Get me one more rebound…’ “so then I knew, I was just one away from getting it.”
In addition to Happ and solid backcourt play, Wisconsin’s defense was smothering throughout the game against the Wildcats, and Coach Greg Gard was very pleased with the team’s defensive effort, limiting Northwestern to under 30% shooting from the field, and just 46 points on the day.
“Not many mistakes (on the defensive end) today, but when we did have one, a teammate would step up,” Gard said with a smile after the game. “I’m happy for our guys, a great team effort today.”
Wisconsin has now won three games in a row, and will look to continue their conference win streak on Tuesday, as the Badgers will face Nebraska on the road.