Happ leads Wisconsin past Northwestern, 70-64
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — Ethan Happ’s unique blend of skills is well-known throughout the Big Ten and beyond.
Andy Van Vliet’s 3-point shooting had been buried deep on Wisconsin’s bench.
Happ scored 19 points in another impressive all-around performance and Van Vliet had 14 in a surprise attack on Northwestern’s zone defense as Wisconsin spoiled the Wildcats’ Senior Night with a 70-64 victory on Thursday.
Khalid Iverson added 16 points and Happ, a 6-foot-10 junior, filled out the box score with seven rebounds, four steals, three assists and three blocked shots as the young Badgers (14-16, 7-10 Big Ten) put together their first three-game winning streak of the conference season.
“Lately, we’ve been able to come up with wins,” Happ said. “Early in the season, that wasn’t the case. We were finding ways to lose games. Now we’re finding ways to win them. The coaches did a good job of making adjustments at halftime, but we played with a greater sense of urgency as well.”″
Senior point guard Bryant McIntosh fought through a shoulder injury that sidelined him the previous two games to score a game-high 26 points for Northwestern (15-15, 6-11).
Senior Scottie Lindsey added 18 for the short-handed Wildcats, who dressed just eight players and were without Vic Law (foot), their third-leading scorer.
“Bryant couldn’t even lift his arm up the last two weeks,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “He said to me, ‘I don’t know I can get up a shot, but I’ve got to get out there.’”
A starter in Wisconsin’s first four games, Van Vliet was then buried on the Badgers’ bench until Wisconsin coach Greg Gard decided he’d be a good weapon against Northwestern’s zone.
The 7-foot lefty from Belgian hit three of his four 3-pointers in the first nine minutes and forced Northwestern to adjust its zone accordingly.
“They play a zone defense, and the coaches told me to be ready. I was able to hit a few shots early. That gave me confidence and opened up things for the rest of team on offense. Hopefully, I’ll be able to build on this.”
Wisconsin: Despite improved play of late, the Badgers will almost certainly need to win the Big Ten Tournament to extend their streak to 20 consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Another impressive streak, 17 straight top-four finishes in the Big Ten standings, has already been put to rest. The Badgers are in ninth place.
Northwestern: McIntosh, Lindsey and Law, who has a year of eligibility remaining, were part of Collins’ first recruiting class at Northwestern, and Collins said they’ve left an indelible mark on the program regardless of what happened this season. “There are so many things those guys did that are firsts for the program. To me, that will be their legacy.” Collins would not speculate on Law’s availability going forward.
Happ changed the game with his defense.
After coming up with steals on consecutive possessions and turning the second one into a dunk that gave the Badgers a 62-58 lead with 2:56 remaining, Happ dove on a loose ball that led to the biggest shot of the night, a 3-pointer by Brevin Pritzl that made it 68-64 with 29 seconds left.
“Happ is an incredible player,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “He made a ton of hustle plays for them.”
McIntosh, Northwestern’s all-time assists leader, and Lindsey were instrumental to the Wildcats’ first NCAA Tournament berth last March, which McIntosh said is tough to reconcile with the disappointment of his final season.
“It is really difficult,” McIntosh said. “The coaches sat down all of us seniors and told us this year doesn’t change our legacy, what we’ve done for this program. I’m thankful for that. It’s been a rough year, a lot of adversity hit us. A lot of things out of our control, and some of the stuff was in our control and we didn’t handle it the right way.”
Northwestern played its home games about 13 miles away from campus at Allstate Arena while its Welsh-Ryan Arena was undergoing a $110 million renovation.
Wisconsin: The Badgers will host Michigan State in their regular-season finale on Sunday.
Northwestern: The Wildcats visit Iowa on Sunday to conclude their regular-season schedule.