A season-low nine points for Ethan Happ versus Illinois Wednesday may worry the Badger faithful, but a victory headlined by Happ’s supporting cast is anything but worrisome. Wisconsin (13-6, 5-3 Big Ten) notched an ugly win against Illinois and look to capitalize on that momentum when Northwestern (12-7, 3-5) comes to town Saturday afternoon.
Rattling off two straight wins, Northwestern touts the Big Ten’s best three-point percentage defense, coupled with senior center Dererk Pardon, who is a threat to limit Happ’s usual production inside. Last year, the two teams split their season series with each team winning on the road. Pardon outplayed Happ in Northwestern’s win, but Happ recovered just 21 days later to spoil Northwestern’s senior night in a 70–64 victory.
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With Happ drawing the assignment of Pardon and numerous inevitable double teams, the opportunity for a “second option” is once again up for grabs. While redshirt sophomore D’Mitrik Trice served in that role early in the year, Reuvers, Davison and forward Khalil Iverson have assumed the position. If one or more of these options can supplement Happ, the Badgers should grab a third consecutive win.
But the Badgers’ success also hinges on Wisconsin’s ability to limit Northwestern senior forward Vic Law, who leads the team in scoring. Law scores at a clip of 16.3 points per game but has struggled since suffering a lower-body injury which kept him sidelined in a loss to Michigan. Another potential threat is an unfamiliar face in Aaron Falzon. In only 20 minutes against Indiana, Falzon recorded 21 points thanks to six three-pointers. Prior to that matchup, Falzon had logged just six points in 18 minutes the entire season. The Badgers cannot afford to fall asleep on Falzon like the Hoosiers did.
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Wisconsin remains among a handful of teams just outside the AP Top 25, but with a win and some help, Wisconsin could crack the poll come Monday morning. After their home contest with Northwestern, the Badgers travel to Nebraska before returning home for a crucial clash with No. 13 Maryland.
Wisconsin hosts Northwestern at 1:15 p.m. The game can be viewed live on the Big Ten Network or followed live on Twitter @BadgerMBB.