Struggling with his shot over the last two games, Ethan Happ appeared headed toward another auspicious start when he headed into halftime just 2-for-6 from the field. It turns out he was just getting started.
Scoring 22 of his career-high 28 points in the second half and adding a free throw in overtime, Happ’s dominance in the second half included him scoring 14 straight points, going 6-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free throw line over that stretch. Happ finished the game 11-for-19 from the field and 6-for-9 from the free throw line.
Nigel Hayes was second to Happ with 21 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the field, and Bronson Koenig was the third player for Wisconsin to reach double figures with 11. Koenig missed his only shot attempt of the second half but knocked down two big 3-pointers in overtime to give Wisconsin the lead for good.
With as good as Happ was on the low block, Wisconsin registered 44 points in the paint, its second 40-point effort in the last three games. As they have been known to do, Minnesota was able to alter shots and register seven blocks, including Reggie Lynch getting the better of Happ at times and finish with five blocks.
Despite the success Lynch had in the interior, Wisconsin kept pounding the ball inside, as 40 of Wisconsin’s 62 field goal attempts came in the paint. Overall Wisconsin shot 31-for-62 from the field and the success down low helped open up the perimeter. UW finished the game 7-for-14 from distance and five different players hit a 3-pointer.
Koenig did an excellent job of taking care of the ball, finishing with a 6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Koenig’s six assists tied with Happ to lead the team with five coming in the second half. Although Koenig took care of the ball, the Badgers committed 13 turnovers that led to 12 Minnesota points.
Wisconsin struggled to create consecutive stops against Minnesota but managed to come up with two big stands on the final two possessions of overtime. After Koenig connected on his second 3-pointer to give Wisconsin a 77-76 lead, Happ registered one of his season-high five blocks against Amir Coffey. The block stopped a run by Minnesota that saw the Gophers score on each of their first five possessions in overtime.
Despite Happ’s ability to protect the rim, Wisconsin allowed Minnesota to shoot 30-for-64 (46.9 percent) from the field and 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) from three. Three Gophers scored in double figures with Coffey leading the way with 19 points (8-for-14 from the field). UW struggled to defend Coffey, Akeem Springs (16 points) and Dupree McBrayer (14 points, 5-for-7 shooting) and saw the trio make their perimeter shots, going a combined 8-for-12.
Springs was able to send the game into overtime thanks to his only made 3-pointer in the second half to tie the game at 67. Hill was defending him and his defense was fine, but Springs created enough separation in order to knock down the shot. Hill continue guarding him in overtime and kept him in check by holding him to one point in the extra session.
Not only did Happ have success in the low post, the sophomore drew contact against the foul-happy Lynch (eight points), who has fouled out five times in seven Big Ten games. It also meant that Wisconsin was able to keep Minnesota from having success in the paint, as the Gophers finished the game with 24 points down low. Lynch registered a team-high four offensive rebounds in his 20 minutes and the Gophers turned nine offensive rebounds into nine points. Wisconsin won the rebounding battle 36-33.
Zak Showalter’s defense against Nate Mason was exactly what Wisconsin needed, holding Minnesota’s leading scorer to eight points on 3-for-14 shooting. Showalter, who finished with seven points, was able to track him the entire game, made sure he was uncomfortable and force Mason into jump shots. Despite Mason’s shooting struggles, he registered 10 of Minnesota’s 19 assists and only committed two turnovers.
Although the stops weren’t consistent, Wisconsin forced the Gophers into 10 turnovers. Showalter led the way with three of Wisconsin’s five steals, and Wisconsin turned the Gophers miscues into nine points.
Neither team could build a lead greater than five points in a back-and-forth classic, but Wisconsin came up with enough plays at the end of the game to win. Not surprising it was Wisconsin’s big three who were able to make the plays down the stretch, as the trio of Koenig (six points), Hayes (four) and Happ (one) were responsible for Wisconsin’s 11 overtime points.
Despite Wisconsin’s big three playing well down the stretch Wisconsin had its rough moments. The Badgers had an inconsistent first half for the second straight game, shooting 13-for-31 from the field before hitting 58.3 percent (14-for-24) over the last 20 minutes and 4-for-7 in the overtime session.
There was one point in the first half where Wisconsin went four minutes, 58 seconds without a field goal (0-for-7) before Happ broke the scoring drought. UW finished the half shooting 8-for-12 from the field.
There’s no question how important Happ was but Hayes played an important role early to keep Wisconsin in the game. After Happ stopped Wisconsin’s scoring drought, Hayes was able to establish a rhythm and scored nine of his 13 first-half points over the last nine minutes of the half, going 4-for-6 from the field.
Hayes and Happ have struggled with their free throws this year but Hayes went 2-for-2 and Happ went 6-for-9. There were a couple of instances where Happ was able to draw an and-one against Minnesota’s defense and convert the free throw for a momentum boost. Overall Wisconsin shot 9-for-13 from the free throw line.
For a second consecutive game D’Mitrik Trice hit a critical three that cut that cut into a lead, this time trimming the lead to 45-43. On the ensuing offensive possession Koenig was able to find Happ to tie the game up at 45. Wisconsin got solid production from its bench with nine points, six rebounds and one block from Alex Illikainen.
Game MVP: Ethan Happ. The sophomore’s performance in the second half was tremendous, seeing him go 9-for-11 from the field and went 4-for-6 from the free throw line on his way to his career-high 28 points. Happ was dominant with his ability to consistently find ways of generating high-percentage looks and securing rebounds, as he registered his seventh double-double of the year with 12 rebounds. Happ may not have made a field goal in the overtime session but was responsible for both of Wisconsin’s overtime rebounds, one an offensive board that led to Koenig’s first 3-pointer. He also registered two of the three assists and had a critical block in overtime. Simply put, Happ was excellent in his 38 minutes of work with his ability to generate offense and be tough defensively. He became the first major conference player since 2003 to reach 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a game.