While Happ's triple-double made headlines, UW's backcourt polished off Northwestern

While Ethan Happ's triple-double will hog the headlines, guards Brad Davison and D'Mitrik Trice's each scored 18 points against Northwestern in the win.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

How does one record a quiet triple-double?

Well, it helps when your teammates are performing.

This season, Wisconsin (6-3 Big Ten, 14-6 overall) has gone as far as players not named Ethan Happ have taken them, and Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice played well enough against Northwestern (3-6, 12-8) to largely overshadow Wisconsin’s third triple-double in school history.

18 points apiece from the backcourt pairing helped the Badgers plod their way to a 62-46 victory, earning their third straight win in a defensive battle.

“Defensively, [it was] one of our better efforts. I think this group is starting to grow in that way,” Badgers head coach Greg Gard said after the game. “And I think the best thing about the best defenses we’ve had is that it starts to become instinctual. And where there are mistakes or breakdowns, they cover up for each other.”

Wisconsin’s suffocating defense held Northwestern to just 29.6 percent shooting from the field, including shutting down the Wildcats’ star Vic Law to just six points.

The Badgers have now held six of their last seven opponents to below 65 points, a feat which makes for some snoozy stretches of basketball but has steadied the ship for a team that has struggled a bit this season.

Wisconsin were only slightly better than Northwestern on offense — only three players (Happ, Trice, Davison) scored multiple field goals — but the play of Davison and Trice bodes well for a team with postseason aspirations.

Both players scored efficiently, consistently converting Happ’s kick-outs and buoying the Wisconsin offense on a day where the senior had his second-worst shooting game (6-for-15) of the season.

“You have to be able to make a defense give up something,” Gard said. “And if they are going to dig or send a guy to double team, you have to be able to make a play.”

While Happ finished with just 13 points on 15 shots, his versatility still hurt the Wildcats on Saturday and made head coach Chris Collins gush after the game.

“He’s seen everything in five years,” Collins said. “He’s seen every coverage, he knows where his guys are. He’s just an incredible player.” 

“He impacts winning so many ways.. It’s a nightmare playing against him.”

Surely, Collins isn’t the only who thinks that.

Coming into Saturday’s game, Happ had averages of 19.2 points per game, 10.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He’s also second in KenPom’s current player of the year rankings, and was recognized on the Wooden Award watch list earlier this month.

He’s been spectacular, and yet, that hasn’t always been enough.

The Badgers lost in both of Happ’s 30-point games this season (at Marquette, Purdue), as free throw shooting, turnovers and a lack of support for their star have all doomed the team at various points.

Saturday wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was an encouraging one. Trice snapped out of a home funk in which he shot 26.4 percent in the last three contests at the Kohl Center, and Davison was as involved as he’s been in the offense all season, taking a season-high 14 shots.

Throw in a more productive Nate Reuvers, who scored just three points after a team-leading 22 vs. Illinois, and the Badgers — at their best — have four scorers capable of taking over a game. 

Happ may well go down in Wisconsin lore, but he needs his teammates’ help for a true storybook ending.

“We wanna’ send him out right,” Davison said.

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