A six-point halftime lead dissolved in the second half against the Northwestern Wildcats on Thursday night, but the Wisconsin Badgers continued to fight back to ultimately claim a road victory thanks to the help of familiar faces ... and one surprising contributor.
With Ethan Happ, Khalil Iverson, and Brevin Pritzl coming up with clutch plays thoughout the game—and junior forward Andy Van Vliet having his most productive outing since the season opener—Wisconsin held on to beat Northwestern 70–64 inside the Allstate Arena.
Happ scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, along with grabbing seven rebounds and adding four steals, three blocks, and three assists. Adding more highlights to his season reel, Iverson contributed 16 points and six rebounds while Pritzl followed up his career game against Minnesota with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting (3-of-7 from three-point range).
Then there was Van Vliet, who played 24 minutes and racked up 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. That included connecting on four of six three-point attempts, the best scoring performance the Belgian has had since an 18-point performance against South Carolina State on Nov. 10 to open the 2017–18 season.
Wisconsin (14–16, 7–10 Big Ten) shot 53.5 percent for the game (24 of 45), including hitting 45 percent (9 of 20) three-point attempts. UW dished out 16 assists as a team, with true freshman guard Brad Davison contributing six, while only conceding nine turnovers.
Guard Scottie Lindsey scored 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting for Northwestern (15–15, 6–11), who shot nearly 49 percent and out-rebounded Wisconsin 26–21 but committed 13 turnovers.
Fellow guard Bryant McIntosh scored 18 points with six assists in his final home game as a Wildcat. Center Dererk Pardon, who battled Happ frequently in the paint, added 10 points and nine rebounds.
Wisconsin went into halftime with a 38–32 lead, thanks in part to a 7–2 run in the final 3:03 to end the first 20 minutes.
When Davison picked up his second foul at the 6:41 mark, head coach Greg Gard rested his freshman standout and Wisconsin allowed Northwestern to cut the lead to one with just over three minutes remaining in the half after McIntosh’s jumper to make it 31–30.
Then UW started its run with a a pair of free throws from forward Aaron Moesch, plus a thunderous dunk from Iverson with 1:33 left in the first half that broke a streak of nearly six minutes without a field goal.
L k out!@iverson_khalil looking like he could go across the street to O'Hare Airport and take off. @BadgerMBB leads Northwestern at half: pic.twitter.com/VhsCsXRiNo— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 23, 2018
After Lindsey’s jumper brought it back to within a three-point game, Pritzl—as seen in both the first and second halves—connected on a clutch three-pointer to give UW a six-point lead heading into intermission.
The second half saw the Wildcats whittle away at the Badgers’ lead.
Northwestern actually regained the lead a couple of times between the 16:00 and 14:00 marks, but Wisconsin’s eight straight points allowed the team to bounce back. Van Vliet’s fifth three-pointer of the night took back the lead, with the Badgers pushing the advantage out to 50–43 as Iverson completed a three-point play after being fouled on a layup.
Again the Wildcats clawed back, bringing the game back within one point after two Pardon free throws at 52–51 with 9:03 remaining, but another Badgers run, this time an 8–2 run, allowed them some breathing room that turned into a seven-point advantage with under five minutes to go at 60–53.
And yet, Northwestern, on its Senior Night, fought to within two points in a 47-second span with 4:12 left as Lindsey scored five consecutive points.
The teams traded two turnovers a piece, with Happ finishing his second consecutive steal in 27 seconds with a big dunk of his own to extend the lead to 62–58 with 2:56 to play.
Something about B1G-time players making B1G-time plays...— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 23, 2018
It certainly applies to @EthanHapp22, as he comes up with a huge steal late and finishes the @BadgerMBB slam: pic.twitter.com/WMOegMbuVo
The game stayed within a two to four-point advantage until Lindsay’s jumper with 1:01 remaining cut the Badgers’ lead to 65–64.
After Wisconsin called a 30-second timeout, a series of passes led the ball to Prtizl’s hands once again. The redshirt sophomore drilled a three-pointer to extend the lead to 68–64 with 29 seconds remaining.
W— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) February 23, 2018
Let’s go streaking! #OnWisconsin pic.twitter.com/Ngavdmtgtn
Lindsey missed a three, and with Iverson connecting on two more free throws, Wisconsin locked up just its third road win of the season.
Thursday night’s victorious outcome now makes it a three-game winning streak for Wisconsin, which secured the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten Tournament before its regular-season finale against No. 2 Michigan State on Sunday (Noon CT, CBS).