Gritty Badgers Keep Finding Ways To Win

Gritty Badgers Keep Finding Ways To Win

Basketball

Gritty Badgers Keep Finding Ways To Win

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The calendar has just turned to December and the University of Wisconsin has knocked off four unbeaten teams and five programs from Power-Five Conference, the last two in come-from-behind fashion and this one without its All-American for the final 45 seconds.

With the run these Badgers are on, there’s seemingly nothing that can get them off their edge.

On a night where Wisconsin’s rotation was disjointed because of 24 personal fouls, the Badgers didn’t fret or panic in a raucous road environment. They simply made shots and defensive stops, enough to get the 22nd-ranked team in the country to the finish line with a 72-66 victory over No.14 Iowa.

“It’s a little bit different feel than what we had last year,” UW senior Ethan Happ said. “The younger guys are more experienced, we have Meech back, we have Kobe back and it’s awesome. We go to the bench and the whole bench and the coaching staff are telling me we’ll be fine. We’ve got guys who can play. And that’s a very true statement.

“We’ve got guys, other than myself, who can come up with big shots and big plays.”

The big plays were mostly delivered by D’Mitrik Trice, as “Meech” scored a game-high 20 points, hit a huge 3-pointer with 20.6 seconds remaining and a pair of free throws that sealed the scoring. Brevin Pritzl – having scored a combined four points in his last four games – dropped 12 points, seven in the first half and a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:35 remaining to give Wisconsin (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) the lead for good at 63-61.

“We have a lot of guys who are ready,” Trice said. “It shows our depth is there, our bench is ready to compete and ready to play at any moment … It just shows the heart that our guys have. Even though our best player with Ethan Happ getting out of the game, we can still get things done.”

Finishing with 13 points, 7 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block, Happ covered his mouth with his jersey after Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon initiated contact and drew a fifth whistle on him. Bohannon calmed sank two free throws and gave Iowa (6-1, 0-1) some life.

Trice snuffed it out, hitting a 3-pointer from the elbow with five seconds on the shot clock and guard Connor McCaffery defending.

And even though Bohannon answered with another 3-pointer, Brad Davison (nine points) – an 89.5 percent free throw shooter – sank two free throws and Trice clinched it after Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp was off target on his desperation three.

“We were going to be very well tested before we got here,” head coach Greg Gard said, referring to a road game at Xavier, three games in the Bahamas and Tuesday against N.C. State. “How we were going to be, you didn’t know as you looked at the schedule as it unfolded. I felt coming into tonight, having been where we had been and who we had played, we were ready for this.

“That isn’t going to guarantee how you are going to play, but we had been in enough situations and enough fist fights with other teams … that they had been battled tested, been in some tough spots and answered the call. They did that again tonight.”

Being called for a season-high 24 fouls forced Wisconsin to rotate through its bigs throughout the night. In addition to Happ, Aleem Ford was limited to 11:33 with four fouls, Nate Reuvers played only 12:28 with four fouls and Khalil Iverson was called for three.

That forced UW to be in situations where 6-2 guards are covering 6-9, 250-pound forwards.

The Badgers still managed to play through it, shooting 48.2 percent (27-of-56) from the field but went 51.6 percent in the second half and 8-for-9 from the free throw line.

“That’s a testament to last year,” Prtizl said. “We learned a lot down the stretch with early games, not finishing them out, not winning … We had a tough time battling back. Those experiences from last year really paid off.”

There were other missteps along the way. Trice lost the handle on what would have been his first career dunk on a big possession that UW somehow managed to salvage. There was an 11-5 discrepancy on the offensive glass that led to the Hawkeyes outscoring the Badgers, 15-4, on second-chance points, and UW giving up 18 points on the fast break.

All that translated to UW facing an 8-point deficit with 12:56 to play, another challenge that the Badgers were able to overcome.

“I love where this team is at honestly,” Trice said. “Just out confidence level, the way we’re playing, sharing the ball, the way the coaches believe in us and the way the players are believing in each other, I think that’s going to go a long way. I also think December will also be a good month for us.”

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