MADISON, Wis. (AP) — He scores, he rebounds, he leads the press break at 6 feet, 10 inches tall.
Not an everyday combination for a post player, but Ethan Happ doesn’t want you to forget he played point guard early in his high school career before he shot up.
It all added up Friday to 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as Happ as Wisconsin broke out of an offensive slump to beat Illinois 75-50.
“The biggest thing was we played as a unit tonight,” Happ said. “There wasn’t one guy trying to do it himself.”
On paper, Illinois (10-10, 0-7 Big Ten) should have given Wisconsin (10-10, 3-4) fits. The Illini like to pressure the perimeter, the Badgers’ backcourt has been thinned by injury and starting point guard Brad Davison went to the bench midway through the first half with his second foul.
But the Badgers didn’t miss a beat.
Up 24-18 about two minutes after Davison went out, Wisconsin went on a 16-6 run over the next five minutes to take control.
Suddenly, a team that had lost its first six Big Ten games by an average of 3.5 points was in a double-digit hole from which it would not recover despite trying to press the Badgers and switching to a zone defense for spurts.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood said the Badgers “just picked us apart” by being patient and taking advantage of poor defensive rotations. He also said it was the first time this season his team lacked effort.
“The team that gets you deep in the shot clock, they’re just going to wait until you make mistakes, and we made mistakes,” he said.
Leron Black scored 16 to lead Illinois, while Trent Frazier added 11.
The Badgers snapped a streak of three straight conference losses in which they failed to score more than 60 points. But they cracked that mark with more than 11 minutes to go, and their 43 points to open the contest was their best mark for a half in Big Ten play this season.
Four Badgers scored in double figures, led by Brad Davison’s 18. Brevin Pritzl scored 16 shooting 3 for 6 from the 3-point line, including one that banked in as the shot clock expired.
“It was ugly. But sometimes it bounces your way,” he said.
Illinois: Few Big Ten coaches look for moral victories. But at least Illinois, which lost two-thirds of its minutes from last year’s NIT squad, could say it had been competitive in its first six conference losses. That wasn’t the case Friday.
Wisconsin: Where was this at Rutgers, at Nebraska or at Purdue? After scuffling on the road since a 71-61 win over Indiana at home on Jan. 2, the Badgers finally found their footing offensively.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Illini outrebounded the Badgers 31-29. But they were 1 of 14 from 3-point range and shot 40 percent overall. . It was Wisconsin’s 12th straight win over Illinois, the longest streak in the history of the series. . The 25-point margin of victory tied for the second biggest for the Badgers over the Illini in the modern era.
ON THE MEND
Wisconsin point guard D’Mitrik Trice, who had surgery on his right foot Dec. 11, has returned to practice, but has not yet been cleared to play, a Wisconsin spokesman said. Coach Greg Gard said he did not know until after practice Thursday night that Trice would not play Friday. He was averaging 31.5 minutes per game before he was hurt and was third in scoring at 9.4 points a game.
Illinois: The Illini host Michigan State on Tuesday.
Wisconsin: The Badgers travel to Iowa on Wednesday.
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