Happ hits unprecedented jump shot, Badgers coast to victory

Ethan Happ and Wisconsin made a surprise run to the Sweet 16 last year. How far will they make it in 2017?

Image By: Vincent Duong

Ethan Happ spent the entirety of his summer working to improve his jump shot. But it wasn’t until a zero-degree day, with snow lining the Madison sidewalks, that the sophomore forward showed off his work.

“It gave me a little bit of a chill feeling,” Happ said of the first basket he’s made outside of the paint while at UW.

Happ’s jumper, with just over nine minutes to play in the first half, came in the midst of No. 14 Wisconsin’s (10-2) best offensive stretch of the night. The Badgers opened the game on a cold streak, but an 18-4 first-half run helped UW pull away from Green Bay (4-6).

From there, the offense thawed out. And the defense, thanks in large part to redshirt senior guard Zak Showalter, heated up. The Badgers knocked off the Phoenix 73-59 Wednesday night. And for the 17,000-plus fans there to witness it, a mere jump shot was worth the trip.

Senior guard Bronson Koenig told Happ in the locker after the game that the Kohl Center’s reaction to his shot was the “loudest he’d heard all year.” Head coach Greg Gard smiled at the thought of his redshirt sophomore forward’s first made outside jumper.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be running any pick-and-pop threes for him,” Gard said. “But I’m just happy for him because he’s put the time in.”

Happ wouldn’t stop his summer workouts until he made 500 jump shots. After most practices, he spends more time working on his jumper. It’s not a consistent part of his game right now, but he is putting in the time on the front end hoping that one day it will help Wisconsin’s offense improve.

Happ finished the Badgers’ victory with 14 points and 10 rebounds. But besides debuting his jump shot, he also set a career-high with six assists.

“I thought he was really patient tonight,” Gard said. “ He let it unfold, watched it take place, saw what was open, who wasn’t, and if it was a time to make a move, make a move. If not he was able to find people on the perimeter.”

Two of his six assists were dished out to Showalter, who added a season-high 16 points in the Badgers’ comfortable 14-point victory.

Showalter, though, was not just effective on the offensive end; the Germantown, Wis., native recorded a career-high six steals as well.

“We’ve been working, just getting in gaps ad nauseam in practice pretty much for the last three months,” Showalter said. “That’s something Coach Gard really stresses and I’ve kind of tried to work on that. Just get my hands on the ball as much as possible. Some nights you’re able to do it, and some nights you get ticky-tack fouls. But tonight I was able to do it.”

The Badgers’ defense disrupted Green Bay throughout the game, doing so, as Showalter alluded, without fouling.

Green Bay went to the free throw line for the first time with just over 13 minutes to go in the game. But by that point, the Badgers had built a 10-point lead that, in the following five minutes, would more than double.

In the midst of the 14-3 run that extended the Badgers’ lead to 21, Happ attempted another jump shot. The crowd watched, nervously tracking his second shot’s trajectory.

It barely grazed the front rim.

But Wednesday night, that was one of the only things that Happ can say came up short. The forward had yet another double-double and UW won its sixth-consecutive game.

When the Badgers face Florida A&M in just over ten days, who knows if Happ will attempt another jump shot. He’s just hoping that the Badgers are able to win, and if he does take another jump shot, that the crowd will act like they’ve seen a make before.

“I want to get it to the point where they don’t have to do that every time,” Happ said of the crowd’s ovation. “Hopefully down the road it’s just a normal clap.”

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