Wisconsin Basketball: Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig Lead Badgers Past North Dakota


The Wisconsin basketball team built off of its first win of the season Sunday night, trouncing North Dakota 78-64 Tuesday night at home at the Kohl Center. The score was closer than the action warranted, as a poor shooting performance in the first half from Wisconsin and a late North Dakota push with Wisconsin’s starters on the bench closed a scoring gap that was over 20 points in the second half.

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Everybody got in on the action for the Badgers as all five starters scored at least 10 points. Ethan Happ had a big night with 17 points and 7 rebounds, with Bronson Koenig keeping pace, scoring 17 points and adding 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Nigel Hayes added 11 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists, and Vitto Brown scored 12 points along with his 5 rebounds. Zak Showalter had 10 points to round out the starting five, adding 6 rebounds and drawing two charges.

Happ had his best showing in his short time in a Badgers uniform, setting a new career high with the 17 points after a big first half in which he scored 11 points and added six rebounds in the first 20 minutes. He punctuated the performance with a first-half fast break, going behind his back on the way to a big slam.

The rest of the first half wasn’t as pretty as both teams struggled, shooting a combined 38.3 percent from the field and 40 percent from the free throw line.

Wisconsin stayed atop by dominating the glass, out-rebounding North Dakota 26-17, including a 10-1 difference in offensive rebounds. The Badgers forced 11 turnovers, scoring 10 points off those turnovers while committing just three of their own, and headed into the break leading 35-22.

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The second half saw Wisconsin pick things up offensively, and the Badgers finished shooting over 40 percent for the night.

Happ’s big night slowed early in the second half when he picked up his fourth foul with 13 minutes to play, but the second half also saw Hayes get things rolling, as he knocked down his first three of the game and later made a nice baseline move for a slam.

Koenig kept firing in the second half as well, scoring eight straight for the Badgers late in the second half to push the Wisconsin lead to 20-plus points at 70-49 with about five minutes to play.

Bo Ryan pulled the starters late in the game, and with mostly first-year players on the court for Wisconsin, North Dakota closed the gap late, but Wisconsin earned the 78-64 victory.

Hayes struggled from the field throughout the game, but showed his versatility by leading the team with 7 assists and grabbing 6 rebounds on the night.

Behind Wisconsin’s starters, freshman Alex Illikainen showed off his shooting abilities, hitting a pair of shots to score 5 points.

The Badgers finished the game shooting 43.9 percent from the field, improving on the poor performance in the first half. Wisconsin hit just 6 of its 20 attempts from three-point range on the night, but was led in that category by Koenig, who hit 3 of his 6 attempts from deep.

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The Badgers head to Madison Square Garden Friday for the 2K Classic, where they will open against Georgetown. The Badgers will then play either Duke or VCU.