Wisconsin Badgers escape with 69-64 win over Northwestern Wildcats
EVANSTON, Ill. – Almost every game in Big Ten play has been a close encounter for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team, and senior center Ethan Happ was expecting more of the same Saturday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
“We know that we’re going to be in for a dogfight,” Happ said earlier this week, “when we go there.”
Happ and Co. got just that from Northwestern. Afterward, the No. 22 Badgers were breathing a huge sigh of relief after escaping with a 69-64 victory over the last-place Wildcats.
Sophomore guard Brad Davison scored 16 points for UW (19-8, 11-5 Big Ten), including two big free throws down the stretch. Happ and sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice added 14 points apiece, while senior forward Khalil Iverson had 11 and made some huge plays to help the Badgers avoid an upset.
The win helped UW improve to 6-2 in Big Ten road games and 9-5 overall away from home this season. It also kept the Badgers in sole possession of fifth place in the Big Ten standings, two games behind a three-way tie for first place entering the final two weeks of the regular season.
Senior forward Vic Law scored a game-high 24 points and senior center Dererk Pardon added 21 for Northwestern (12-15, 3-13), which lost its eighth consecutive game.
Eleven of UW’s first 15 Big Ten games were either one- or two-possession games going into the final five minutes. Two others were within three possessions.
The only times the Badgers could coast to the finish were at Penn State in early January and against these Wildcats later that month, when Happ produced his second triple-double of the season in a 62-46 win at the Kohl Center.
But this time, Northwestern made the Badgers sweat it out.
UW used an 8-2 run that included six points from Happ to build a 53-46 lead with 7:54 remaining.
But the Wildcats answered with an 11-2 burst, with Law doing all the scoring. He made three 3-pointers during the run, with the final one in that stretch giving Northwestern a 57-55 lead with 5:06 remaining.
Iverson converted two three-point plays in a span of four possessions. The second one broke a 60-all tie with 2:57 to go.
After Pardon scored in traffic, Davison attempted a baseline jumper that danced around the rim before falling to give UW a 65-62 lead with 1:56 remaining.
Davison missed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, and Law cut the Wildcats’ deficit to 65-64 by making two free throws with 15.1 seconds left.
Davison was fouled on the ensuing possession and made two free throws with 8.9 seconds left to give the Badgers a three-point lead. After a timeout with 4 seconds remaining, Aaron Falzon missed an off-balance 3-pointer from the right wing and UW sophomore forward Nate Reuvers grabbed the rebound.
He was fouled immediately and made two free throws with 0.4 seconds left to seal the win.
Pardon had 11 points to help give Northwestern a 32-31 lead at the break. He did most of that damage against Reuvers, who twice gave up easy baskets after trying unsuccessfully to draw a charge on Pardon.
Happ, coming off a season-low six points in a win over Illinois on Monday night, struggled over the first 20 minutes. He went 2 of 6 from the field and had three of UW’s six turnovers.
Trice was the main source of offense for the Badgers, scoring 11 points. Three times, he saved possessions that appeared to be going nowhere by making long jumpers late in the shot clock.
This story will be updated.