Happ's historic triple-double, sharp three-point shooting let UW cruise in opener
Senior forward Ethan Happ posted Wisconsin's second ever triple-double as the Badgers cruised in opener against Coppin State.Image By: Jon Yoon
Ethan Happ may never score more important points in garbage time.
With 6:32 left in the second half and the Badgers already leading Coppin State by 25, Happ aced a pair of free throws to give Wisconsin a 77-51 lead.
The sequence hardly changed the outcome of the game, but placed the senior center in historic company, making him the second-ever Badger to record a triple-double next to Josh Gasser.
Happ’s 10-point, 11-rebound, 12-assist performance came during an easy 85-63 opening night win where the senior secured a career milestone with what has been a weakness for much of his career.
“[It’s] fitting that he gets them at the free throw line,” head coach Greg Gard said. “I think the amount of time he’s put into that and trying to improve his game, [I’m] extremely happy for him, because no one’s put in more time to their individual game than Ethan Happ.”
Despite ending the first half with seven assists and eight rebounds, Happ was swarmed in the paint for much of the game and only attempted seven field goals on the night, leading to his slow climb to 10 points.
Even with 10 assists accrued later on and needing only two points to hit double digits, Happ continued to dish to his teammates rather than forcing looks. This unselfishness in response to a clear gameplan to quiet him was ultimately what drove him to the achievement.
“He was in there knowing he needed two points, but I thought he had it confused — that he needed another assist — the way he was passing the ball around,” Gard said.
In fairness, Happ could never have posted 12 assists without the shooting of his teammates, as sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice and junior guard Brevin Pritzl both made at least four shots from deep.
“We’ve got a lot of shooters and you can kinda’ tell that was their game plan, was just take me away,” Happ said. “So that worked out well with having them knock down shots early.”
Trice, in his return from a right foot injury that forced him to miss most of last season, was unlucky to be overshadowed by Happ. He posted a career-high 21 points, and started the game on a ridiculous 5-of-6 stretch from deep that suggests he may have improved his shooting during his injury rehab.
“I honestly had to push the reset button on a lot of different things and start from the beginning,” Trice said of his recovery. “It was more of a mental game for me, as for anybody who’s coming off an injury, it’s between your ears.”
The Badgers started a bit slow in the game, as Coppin State made six first-half three-pointers and troubled Wisconsin some with their defense on Happ. Before long, however, Wisconsin clamped down on defense, created better looks and jumped out to a 49-27 lead.
The second half produced much of the same, as the Badgers eased to yet-another opening night win against an outmatched non conference opponent. The game wasn’t memorable in of itself, but Happ’s stat line certainly was, and serves as an overt reminder of his brilliance.
“I hope everyone appreciates the impact he has,” Gard said. “Because players like him are rare.”
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