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Observations from Wisconsin’s win vs. Coppin State

One game, one triple-double, one win.

Dan Sanger

Wisconsin fans in attendance—and those who have a BTN Plus subscription—saw a historic performance on Tuesday night when redshirt senior forward Ethan Happ recorded the second triple-double in school history in the Badgers’ 85–63 win over Coppin State.

In joining Josh Gasser as the only players to register the feat at Wisconsin, Happ extended his legacy and provided a hopeful sign of things to come for a program eager to bounce back from last year’s rough season.

Discussing only Happ’s big game would be a disservice, however, as others—particularly those in the backcourt—stepped up with some hot shooting in the first half to really pull away from the Eagles.

This is a very small sample size—one game. Nonetheless, here is what I took away from the win:

  • We called out how D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King could impact this squad on Tuesday. Trice showed up big-time, scoring a career-high 21 points and shooting over 50 percent from the field and three-point range. He grabbed four rebounds and dished out an assist, but he also did not commit a turnover.
  • For that matter, Wisconsin committed only five turnovers while dishing out 17 assists. A clean game from that aspect.
  • Twelve of those 17 assists came from Happ, a career high. I think Wisconsin fans take for granted just how impressive it is that a big man can pass the ball so fluidly. According to UW, those 12 assists are the third-highest total in the program’s history and the most since Mike Kelley hit that mark in November 2000.
  • After the game, Happ said he told Trice that he did not really want to get to double-digit points on a layup. Rather, he wanted to achieve the feat by a jumper or by free throw, though he acknowledged missing a layup with 7:29 remaining that would have gotten him to the 10-point mark.
  • Even while needing two points to get the triple-double, Happ found guys open for baskets. “It just shows his character, honestly, that he was willing to give up that extra point when he’s getting doubled to find the open guy and tack on two more assists when we’re trying to get him two more points,” Trice said. “It just shows and speaks on his character and who he is as a person.”
  • King contributed eight points and four rebounds on the night while posting a +/- of +29, best on the team. Only three Badgers (Trice, Brevin Pritzl, Happ) scored in double digits, but King, Nate Reuvers (eight), Brad Davison (nine), and Khalil Iverson (seven) were close. Again, it’s just Coppin State, but seeing contributions early was a solid sign.
  • Wisconsin converted 23 of 26 free throws (88.5 percent), the highest percentage the Badgers have shot from the charity stripe since hitting 28 of 31 against Indiana in February 2015 (minimum 25 attempts). Happ was 4-of-4 from the line, with the final two clinching the triple-double.
  • Wisconsin connected on 50 percent of its shots from the field (14 of 28) in the first half, with nine of 17 going through the net from three-point range. Players made the open shots when presented those opportunities, and I liked how the ball movement progressed. UW cooled off in the second half, only shooting 33 percent from the field (11 of 33), but if Happ continues to see a defense trying to limit him offensively like Coppin State did, the Badgers need to drain those opportunities like you saw in the first 20 minutes.
  • Before the game, Wisconsin announced that three true freshmen—Taylor Currie, Joe Hedstrom, and Carter Higginbottom—intend to redshirt this season. Who wasn’t on the list? Guard Tai Strickland, who played just 2:38 but scored a point and briefly showed some of that defensive presence I saw in the Red/White Scrimmage about a week-and-a-half ago. We will see how much playing time he receives, and he is still a first-year player that will have freshman moments, but I feel his future is promising.
  • I got to cover a game that saw one of Wisconsin’s all-time great players record a triple-double of 10 points, 11 rebounds, and those dozen assists. From a reflective standpoint, I covered Melvin Gordon’s 408-yard game, Wisconsin upsetting LSU at Lambeau Field, and now Happ’s accomplishment on behalf of B5Q. I do not take opportunities to cover such feats in my profession for granted, I guarantee you that.