No. 9 Wisconsin faces early test against No. 22 Creighton
Ethan Happ has struggled mightily at the charity stripe so far this season.Image By: Jessi Schoville
The No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0) are undefeated.
That’s something that UW couldn’t say after its opening home game last season. But, the Badgers took care of business last Friday night, dominating Central Arkansas in a 32-point victory.
Tuesday evening’s matchup against No. 22 Creighton (1-0) will be UW’s first test in a non-conference schedule full of challenges.
But for an experienced roster that has encountered a flurry of challenges over the past few seasons, the Badgers aren’t fazed by an early road obstacle.
“It’s definitely one thing you can’t give someone, experience,” senior forward Nigel Hayes said after last Friday’s victory over the Bears. “So last year we got all that, and now you can see we have a much more solid and much more ready group of guys to go play.”
Hayes is just one of the Badgers’ trio of Preseason All-Big Ten First Team players. Senior guard Bronson Koenig and sophomore forward Ethan Happ are also expected to produce in abundance.
This fall though, Happ’s toughest opponent has not been any one particular defender, but instead the free throw line.
He missed both of his free throw attempts Friday night. In Wisconsin’s exhibition game against UW-Platteville, he made only two of his eight attempts.
Happ worked diligently during the summer to improve his foul shooting and frequently is one of the last Badger players to leave practice, devoting extra time to his foul shots.
As a result, head coach Greg Gard is not overly concerned with his forward's free-throw woes.
“The getting to the line is something that I want to make sure he continues to do,” Gard said. “I don’t worry so much because I’ve seen him make seven out of ten in practice, eight out of ten in practice. Like anything in this game or in life, confidence drives a lot. When your confidence is up, sometimes you perform above your actual ability. Or when your confidence is down, then you perform below it.”
The veteran Badgers will visit Creighton Tuesday evening full of confidence. But an experienced Blue Jays teams has the potential firepower to match Wisconsin.
Senior guard Maurice Watson Jr. was named Preseason First Team All-Big East and like Koenig, named to the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Watch List.
Redshirt freshman center Justin Patton poses a real threat to Ethan Happ down low. The Blue Jays’ seven foot center was named to a preseason center of the year watch list, just like Happ.
Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster additionally received preseason award mentions and was one of the best shooters in the Big 12 the past two seasons.
Wisconsin will look to show that while Creighton is a ranked foe, it has experienced volatile environments before and are ready for any challenge.