It marked the sixth win in a row for Greg Gard’s squad, which now sits tied for third in the Big Ten with No. 9 Michigan State, who they coincidentally play next Tuesday night inside the Kohl Center.
We saw another outstanding defensive effort. D’Mitrik Trice came up clutch once again in a tough situation, and Ethan Happ pulled off what could be best described as an extremely solid impression of a pro-wrestling bad guy.
Let’s get to the takeaways.
Defense wins the day once again
Here’s a fun stat: In its six-game winning streak, Wisconsin (17-6, 9-3 Big Ten) has held opponents to their season lows in five of those contests. That includes holding the Gophers to 51 points.
The Gophers shot just 35.1 percent for the game, including hitting just 10 of 31 (32.3 percent) in the second half.
Minnesota has not been known for its three-point shooting this season—it is the worst in the Big Ten—but only made one of 13 from deep. That’s a downright frigid 7.7 percent.
Individually, Amir Coffey scored 21 points in Minnesota’s win against Wisconsin on Jan. 3 inside the Kohl Center. On Wednesday night, Wisconsin contained him to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting, 0-for-2 from three-point range, in 38 minutes.
Last time out, forward Jordan Murphy was held in check by Wisconsin with five points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. He made up for it this second go-around (game-high 16 points, 19 rebounds), but outside of center Daniel Oturu reaching double-figures against the Badgers, everyone else was pretty much held in check.
Long story short, this level of defense can win you conference championships. We’ll see just how much more noise Wisconsin can make in the next week facing two top-10 teams.
Nate Reuvers Block Party
Jim Polzin and I discussed on Bucky’s 5th Podcast earlier this week Reuvers’s up-and-down play recently with flashes of greatness (see: Maryland and Illinois) juxtaposed with foul trouble and limited impact.
On Wednesday in his home state, he flashed again on both sides of the court, scoring nine points, pulling down eight rebounds, and blocking seven (7!) shots.
When not in foul trouble, his defensive abilities stand out more and more as the season wears on. For what it’s worth, he has recorded a blocked shot in every game since the Western Kentucky loss and has swatted at least two blocks in six of the past 11 games.
He currently ranks third in the Big Ten in blocks per game (1.9) behind Michigan’s Jon Teske (2.2) and Maryland’s Bruno Fernando (2.0)
D’Mitrik Trice has ice in his veins
He shot just 3-of-10 from the field, 3-of-8 from three-point range, on Wednesday night, but his last trey with 1:44 remaining could be described as a “dagger” in halting Minnesota’s momentum after cutting the lead down to three points.
The old adage, “Shooters shoot,” applies here, and we have seen both he and Brad Davison having the confidence in themselves—and really the team also having confidence in them—to make those critical baskets with the shot clock winding down.
Inside “The Barn,” Trice showed the proverbial “ice in his veins” by draining that devastating three.
Ethan Happ: Savage
As a former indy wrestler/trainee and avid consumer of many things squared circle, Happ’s end-of-game performance playing to the Minnesota student section after a decisive victory appears to be a beautiful example of what we refer to as playing up as a “heel”—or “bad guy.”
Ethan Happ exits The Barn pic.twitter.com/4Agmbl2Hdz— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) February 7, 2019
I mean, Happ shows all the characteristics of a charismatic pro wrestling heel. Huge, confident smile, waving goodbye to an agitated crowd that has been utterly defeated, essentially proclaiming his greatness.
It wasn’t all talk, however, as he also backed it up on the court with a team-high 15 points, 13 rebounds, and four assists.
When speaking with BTN’s Jon Crispin, Happ explained his actions, and his answer was phenomenal:
“There was a particular group of students in their student section that was chirping the whole game, so I just let them know that I thanked them for their time here. You know, I haven’t lost here, so they make me feel at home. I really enjoy the atmosphere here.”
If he would have let out a Ric Flair “WOOOOOOOOO” and flashed the “W” with his hands, it would have been the cherry on top of the sundae.