Redshirt senior forward Ethan Happ recorded yet another double-double, while redshirt sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice continued his hot shooting. It was not just those two standouts that guided Wisconsin (6-1) to the comeback win, as a slew of Badgers contributed in cutting the second half deficit to ultimately taking the lead.
And of course, sophomore guard Brad Davison did Brad Davison things and reached legendary levels of charging.
Head coach Greg Gard used words like “resilient,” “heart,” “grit” and “toughness” in his postgame press conference, and those adjectives rang true on Tuesday night.
There are a lot of takeaways from this Big Ten/ACC Challenge contest, but here are a few that popped out:
- First off, the ability to stay composed late in these tight contests was evident on Tuesday, maybe something that was not there last season. Greg Gard’s team continuously fought back after a rough 20 minutes. Down seven at the half and by 12 at the 19:01 mark in the second half, Wisconsin slowly chiseled away at the lead and ultimately took the win.
“We’re a way more experienced team that we were last year,” Trice said. “You can see just the composure on these guys—never too high, never too low. Just kind of that even keeled mentality and just keeping the guys together at all times, whether we’re down 15 or up 15.”
- So what was the difference between the two halves for Wisconsin? Happ believes it was the offensive improvements. UW shot only 35.7 percent from the field in the first half with only 10 points in the paint; but in that second half, the Badgers significantly improved to 62.1 percent overall and doubled the amount of points close to the rim.
“I mean, I think offensively we were just being more efficient and the points in the paint went up for us,” Happ said after the game. “Definitely we were getting the ball to go in a lot more for us. They were hitting a lot of good shots, a lot of tough shots, but that didn’t really change from the first half to the second half. You saw every time we brought it within two or three points they ended up hitting a big shot, but I’d say the biggest change was just us offensively.”
- Happ scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in his seventh straight double-double of the season (in seven games), but he also struggled in the first half in only making three of 11 attempts from the field and one of four. In the final 20 minutes, he did improve by making five of seven shots.
Maybe the more impressive part was how everyone stepped up when the AP preseason All-American did not have his best game overall. Trice, Davison, Aleem Ford, Kobe King and Trevor Anderson all answered the call. Happ believed it was a team win.
“It wasn’t relied on one or two guys,” Happ said. “I don’t know if that’s how it would have been last year in a game like this. I think we’re a lot more balanced this year than what we were last year, and I think that’s what’s really helped us so far this season and in this game definitely.”
- So back to Trice … he is absolutely on fire. In six of seven contests so far, he tallied double digits in scoring. With hitting four of five shots from three-point range against the Wolfpack, he now is connecting on 60 percent for the season from deep (24 of 40).
Of all of those shots though on Tuesday night, however, that two-point jumper with 23 seconds left in the game may have been the most impressive. That gave Wisconsin a three-point advantage. N.C. State’s next possession, Davison drew his fourth and final charge for the night.
Trice finished the game with 18 points.
- Having Ford step up like he did after returning from his knee injury is a much-needed boost. Tallying 12 points on four of seven from the field—all three-pointers—allows Wisconsin to display another scoring threat on the court to help alleviate Happ on the inside.
“We expect more a lot more games like tonight,” Trice said. “Just for him to come in, not practicing much, I think he’s only practiced a couple times since he’s been off his injury, to be thrown out into the fire and into that type of environment, that type of game, and to shoot the ball with confidence, it just shows a lot about him and I think this is just the beginning for him.”
- King played 29 minutes and 55 seconds, nearly three-fourths of the game, and tallied five points, six rebounds and two assists. It was a welcomed sign that to see the La Crosse native see extended, productive minutes. Gard mentioned postgame about the emergence of his redshirt freshman guard.
“He’s starting to become more and more comfortable after missing most of last year,” Gard said.
- He only played nine minutes, but Anderson scored five consecutive points when UW was down by 10 in the second half to help surge back from a deep deficit. The UW-Green Bay transfer will provide depth to the backcourt that already has Trice, Davison, King, Brevin Pritzl and even true freshman Tai Strickland, who played exactly 59 seconds against the Wolfpack.
- Turnovers plagued Wisconsin in that first half as well, just like its win over Stanford last Wednesday, something that will need to be cleaned up heading into Friday night’s game at Iowa City. Credit should be given, however, to N.C. State’s defense for pressing and keeping UW uncomfortable.
- B5Q will dive into the coverage of Brad Davison’s four charges and which ones people believe were or were not legit (SB Nation has already done so), but they were absolutely crucial in the game—especially the one with under 20 seconds left in the game.
After maybe not necessarily getting those calls down at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last week, a reporter asked Davison if he was confident that he was going to get them if he kept trying.
“I just continue to play the defense that I usually play. I know calls is one thing you can’t control but effort and being in the right place is something you can control, so I just try to do that every time that I get the opportunity,” Davison said. “Watch a lot of film, try to understand what kind of moves the guys like to do and try to be in the right place at the right time, so I’m always confident about that.”