Wisconsin Delivers Emphatic Road Win At Xavier, 77-68

Wisconsin Delivers Emphatic Road Win At Xavier, 77-68

Basketball

Wisconsin Delivers Emphatic Road Win At Xavier, 77-68

It’s a script that played out countless times during a frustrating 2017-18 campaign. The University of Wisconsin was relying heavily on Ethan Happ, they weren’t getting scoring contributions from other players and saw an opponent seize the reins of the momentum.

But in their first test of a new season, the Badgers told a national audience that last year was long behind them.

Starting the second half on an 18-4 run, Wisconsin built a comfortable working margin to sustain a late push by Xavier and register a wire-to-wire 77-68 victory Tuesday night, ending the Musketeers 41-game nonconference home winning streak.

“It’s good to be able to come in and respond at the start of the second half how we responded,” head coach Greg Gard said. “We’ve got to clean up some things in the first half, clean up some things in the second half, but to come in here and only have seven turnovers … that’s good. That’s going to have to be a staple of what we do.

“We’re going to have to defend, rebound and take care of the ball. If we do those things, we give ourselves a chance.”

It’s the first win for the Badgers (2-0) in their three years playing in the Gavitt Games but even more important it was a victory away from the comforts of home. Last season, UW didn’t win its first game away from home until Dec.4. The Badgers will likely win a lot more if they get the kind production they received from Ethan Happ and D’Mitrik Trice.

Fresh off a triple-double in last week’s season opener, Happ filled again filled the stat sheet with 30 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Three of those assists found D’Mitrik Trice for 3-pointers, as the sophomore went a perfect 5-or-5 from 3-point range for a new career-high 22 points.

The two of them made sure to spark UW coming out of the locker room for the second half that left no doubt.

After seeing Xavier (2-1) cut a double-digit lead to two, Happ and Trice combined for the team’s first nine points, assisting one another on three of the four buckets. Getting a shot-clock beating 3-pointer from Brad Davison (19 points) to break the cycle, UW went right back to Happ and Trice for a bucket each.

When Khalil Iverson slammed home a dunk off an assist from – who else? – Happ, the Badgers had made their first eight shots of the half and opened up a 48-32 lead.

Averaging 18 points (shooting 69.6 percent from the field) and 13 rebounds last week, not to mention scoring 11 points and pulling down six rebounds in Xavier’s 80-70 win in Madison last year, junior Tyrique Jones was held in check by UW’s defense, turning a pedestrian final line of four points on three field goal attempts, two turnovers and four fouls in 12 minutes.

Naji Marshall led the Musketeers with 24 points.

After missing countless opportunities last season to rack up quality wins during nonconference play, setting the stage for the program’s first losing season in 20 years, Wisconsin built a 10-2 lead off the opening tip and was complete control of a sold-out Cintas Center.

And, just like so many times a year ago, Wisconsin appeared to let things slip away. Missing a handful of point-blank looks early and missing some assignments late, Xavier closed the half on a 12-4 run and entered the locker room with a ton of momentum.

The Musketeers got to enjoy the ride for 15 minutes before Happ and company took the momentum back for good.

In addition to the 3-pointer during Wisconsin’s opening run, Davison came up with some critical plays down the stretch on both ends of the court. He hit a 3-pointer with 1:04 remaining in the game and two seconds on the shot clock. Not only did he boost UW’s lead to 72-60, but he also did the “Gator Chomp” as he ran back on defense, referring former Xavier forward JP Macura’s infamous gesture last year at the Kohl Center.

After the Musketeers cut the deficit to 74-68, Davison drew a foul on Marshall on a screen. Not only did it give UW the ball back, it wiped out a made 3-pointer by Quentin Goodwin. That sealed the win.

Wisconsin hosts Houston Baptist (1-1) Saturday night at the Kohl Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network

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