Milwaukee, WI – Trailing Marquette by five points at halftime, Wisconsin erupted for 58 second-half points and cruised to a 93-84 victory over the Golden Eagles in the schools’ annual intrastate game on Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
The Badgers got a big second-half lift from starting center Ethan Happ, who sat out the last 18 minutes of the first half after picking up two early fouls. Happ scored all of his 11 points and pulled down all his five rebounds in the second half. He impacted the game on the defensive end as well limiting Marquette center Luke Fischer to only two-second half points after Fischer had scored nine in the first half.
“Ethan got a lot of rest in the first half and maybe he can sit out all the first halves,” kidded Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes. “I’m just joking. He was attacking Fischer. You saw how great he played. We’re proud of him.”
Happ scores almost exclusively from deep in the paint by beating his defender off the dribble, rolling quickly out of screens for catches and shots on the move and muscling his defender to create space to score at the rim. Entering the game third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage at .707, Happ connected on five of eight shots against Marquette.
While Happ did all his work in the second half, Wisconsin senior leaders Hayes and Bronson Koenig gave Marquette fits from start to finish, leading the Badgers with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Marquette Coach Steve Wojciechowski called Hayes and Koenig “studs” and said they play “a mature brand of basketball.”
Koenig showed the sellout crowd of over 18,000 his three-level scoring ability in the first half by knocking down two shots from behind the three-point arc, dribbling into an elbow jump shot to his right and capitalizing on a disorganized Marquette defensive sequence to drive the ball to the basket for an uncontested lay-up.
Hayes scored 11 of his 17 points after intermission. Taking advantage of the mostly shorter defenders Marquette ran at him, Hayes used his strength to penetrate the paint, collapse the Marquette defense and generally get something good for the Badgers each time he attacked the rim. Playing on the perimeter, Hayes made two pinpoint pocket passes to teammates rolling to the basket that resulted in either field goals or trips to the free throw line in the second half. Entering the game averaging five and a half rebounds per game, Hayes led Wisconsin with nine rebounds.
Predictably, Wisconsin Coach Greg Gard was unhappy with his team’s defensive play in the first half in allowing Marquette to score 40 points and make over 48 percent of its shots. “I just wanted to get back to being solid defensively,” said Gard. “Being solid will lead to success for us. Just be solid. If we stick to our plan and defend according to our principles, we’ll be able to get things under control. I thought our defense in the first ten minutes or so of the second half was pretty good.”
Marquette entered the game averaging over 86 points per game, second in the Big East. But after re-taking the lead at 47-46 early in the second half, the Golden Eagles’ offense went into slumber mode and Wisconsin went on a 16-0 spurt to take control of the game. “For whatever reason, and I have to figure it out, our starts to second halves have been really poor,” said Wojciechowski. “When you’re playing a team that’s got a chance to make a Final Four run and you give them momentum, that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Rallying behind the play of freshman Marcus Howard and sophomore Haanif Cheatham, the Golden Eagles cut Wisconsin’s lead to eight a couple of times in the last five minutes of the game, but whenever Wisconsin needed a big play or basket to keep Marquette from getting any closer, Koenig, Hayes or Happ were there to provide it.
Marquette usually looks to get Fischer touches on the low block early in games, and with Happ sitting on the bench for most of the first half, the Golden Eagles had success early dropping the ball down to Fischer. Fischer made four of five shots in scoring nine points in the first half, and when Wisconsin sent a secondary defender his way, Fischer assisted on three of his teammates’ baskets. “They were playing behind Luke in the first half and fronting him in the second half,” said Wojciechowski. “Happ’s their best post defender.”
Fischer received scoring help in the first half from expected and unexpected sources. Now firmly established as Marquette’s starting point guard, freshman Marcus Howard proved the stage was not too big for him by directing the Marquette offense and scoring nine first half points on three of six shooting. Howard, who made three of six shots from distance for the game, scores mostly from behind the three-point arc and at the rim. He made an off-balance runner to his left through a foul early in the first half and knocked down the ensuing free throw to complete an old fashioned three-point play. A native of Chandler, Arizona, Howard finished with a team-high 22 points.
Howard completed high school in three years and is the youngest player on the Marquette roster. He turned down the chance to talk about his own game when addressing the media for the first time after the game. “All I care about is that we didn’t win the game,” he said. “We need to focus on what we have to do as a team to regroup. Wisconsin is a great team. Once they got on a run in the second half, we weren’t able to bounce back. We needed to get the ball moving, play as one. We still have a lot of sorting out to do, but I’m confident we’ll get it done.”
The unexpected scoring for Marquette in the first half was provided by fifth-year senior Katin Reinhardt. With stops at UNLV and Southern California on his resume, Reinhardt showed an ignitable facet to his game that had been mostly missing in his first eight games in a Marquette uniform.
A 6-6 forward splitting time between the two forward positions, Reinhardt made four of five shots from distance, all the shots he took, in leading Marquette with 13 first-half points. Reinhardt separates quickly from screens to free himself for open looks from behind the three-point arc. He brought the Marquette fans to their feet in the first half connecting on a three-point shot with three Wisconsin defenders in front of him and his four teammates trailing the play. But Wisconsin had an answer for Reinhardt in the second half to limit his scoring to three free throws.
Wisconsin had an answer all game for Marquette freshman Sam Hauser, the team’s stretch four coming off back-to-back 19-point scoring games. Hauser entered the game 11th in the Big East in field goal percentage at .574 and sixth in the league in three-point percentage at .523. Showing a propensity to foul that he had not shown all season, Hauser spent much of the first half anchored to the Marquette bench with two fouls. Unlike Happ, who got his game going in the second half after early foul trouble, Hauser never got untracked and fouled out without scoring a point.
“Sam’s fouls never allowed him to get into a rhythm,” said Wojciechowski. “Teams are going to game plan for him. But this was only Sam’s tenth college game. I’ll take that kid every day.”
Wisconsin returns to action on December 14 when it hosts Green Bay. Marquette takes a week off for exams before returning to the court to welcome St. Francis (PA) to Milwaukee on December 19.
This article was written by Tom Osowski, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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