After less than two minutes of action in No. 17 Wisconsin’s (9-2) victory over Marquette (7-3) Saturday afternoon, sophomore forward Ethan Happ picked up his second foul in as many minutes. He headed to the Badgers’ bench, where he would be held captive for the half’s remaining 18 minutes.
With Happ sidelined with two fouls, Golden Eagles center Luke Fischer helped Marquette take advantage. Fischer’s team led at the break, 40-35. Happ could do nothing to help as he watched from the bench.
But the sophomore forward from Milan, Ill., broke away from the Badgers’ bench in the second half, and with his liberation from the sidelines, the UW offense as a whole came alive. Powered by Happ’s second half performance, Wisconsin won comfortably, 93-84.
Senior guard Bronson Koenig shouldered much of the Badgers’ offense in the first half with Happ resting on the bench. But a late surge from the Golden Eagles gave the home team a five-point lead as the two rivals went into the locker room.
In the second half, though, the Badgers were able to take advantage of Happ’s presence on the inside. After struggling to muster any offense in the paint last season in their two-point home loss to the Golden Eagles, the Badgers flipped the script Saturday afternoon. By playing through Happ and senior forward Nigel Hayes, UW was able to create a balanced and explosive offensive attack.
Freshman guard Markus Howard hit a three-pointer with 14:37 to go in the game to give the Golden Eagles a one-point lead, but it was all Badgers from that point forward. A 16-0 run by UW gave a comfortable 15-point lead with just under ten minutes to play.
The Badgers wouldn’t squander the lead.
Koenig finished the game with 18 points and a season-high six assists. Hayes was an efficient 6-of-10 from the field, ending the night with 17 points and nine rebounds. Happ finished with 11 points and five rebounds in only 17 minutes of action.
The Badgers’ role players helped out as well. A career-high 16 points from sophomore guard Khalil Iverson, 15 points from senior forward Vitto Brown and 11 from senior guard Zak Showalter helped make Saturday’s win one of the most balanced offensive performances of the year.
UW’s offense was constrained for much of the first half. But that was due in large part to Happ’s foul trouble and absence. When he returned, the Badgers’ offense returned, and with it UW will return to Madison winning the latest I-94 rivalry game.