Men's basketball

Morning Madness: Fans storm court as Happ hands No. 2 Michigan first loss in Saturday stunner

Senior forward Ethan Happ scored his 2000th career point with six minutes left Tuesday night, but the Badgers couldn't find any other offense down the stretch in a loss.

Image By: Jon Yoon

Forget the deflating losses to Minnesota and Purdue or the schedule-fillers earlier in the season. Saturday morning was the Kohl Center in its purest form: the Badgers showing up for a big-time rival and feeding off of a raucous mid-winter crowd.

Wisconsin (4-3 Big Ten, 12-6 overall) snapped a two-game skid and knocked off No. 2 Michigan (6-1 Big Ten, 17-1 overall) 64-54, handing the Wolverines their first loss of the season and restoring confidence in a struggling team. 

The victory celebrations will likely be followed by questions of how a team coming off a sloppy loss at Western Kentucky, a 14-point first half against Minnesota and an overtime collapse against Purdue managed to upset one of the nation’s hottest teams.

Those are valid questions for coach Greg Gard and his players, but they won’t worry about them just yet after their best win of the season.

The first half of the game was prototypical defensive Big Ten basketball, as the teams traded leads and runs throughout the first 20 minutes of action. The Badgers were paced by senior forward Ethan Happ’s 10 points while Jordan Poole led the Wolverines with 11.

Wisconsin countered Michigan impressively on defense, holding them to just one of seven from deep and forcing seven turnovers.

Still, the team struggled to support Happ on the other end. Just one other player made multiple field goals in the first period — sophomore guard Brad Davison had six points on 3-4 shooting — and the rest of the starting lineup combined for just three points on just one of 10 shooting. 

All of that changed in the second period.

After starting the half down 27-25, the Badgers were kept at bay in the opening minutes, as seven quick points from Michigan’s Jon Teske helped the Wolverines build a four-point lead.

With 12 minutes and 55 seconds remaining in the half, Wisconsin grabbed hold of the game. An Aleem Ford three-pointer gave Wisconsin its first lead of the half at 40-39.

It was the sophomore forward’s second bucket of the game, but he wasn’t finished.

After his three, Ford ended a four-plus minute scoring drought with a three-point play with 8 minutes and 25 seconds remaining to bring him to nine points on the day, and from there Wisconsin pushed on.

Michigan was undone by its nine second-half turnovers. Poole was held to just three points in the final frame, while Happ provided another 16 to finish with 26, along with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

The Badgers extended their lead to six with five minutes and 49 seconds remaining after Happ tipped in an alley-oop pass from an inbounds play, and the big man brought it back to the same deficit with an emphatic dunk about three minutes later.

From there, Wisconsin was tested at the free-throw line, perhaps its biggest weakness this season.

They passed that test with flying colors. 

Following an intentional foul, Trice nailed a pair of free throws with 72 seconds remaining to bring the lead to six and Wisconsin executed flawlessly down the stretch to hand Michigan a stinging loss.

A Nate Reuvers dunk with four seconds left capped off an impressive victory, one which must have felt cathartic for a previously sputtering team. 

Wisconsin’s struggles have been marred by a lack of support around Happ, the absence of a reliable second guy to take some of the load off of the All-American.

On Saturday, at least Reuvers and Ford carried that load.

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