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Ethan Happ

Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ grabs the rebound against Marquette guard Sam Hauser (10) and forward Theo John (4) in the first half of the Badgers' loss to the Golden Eagles at the Kohl Center in Madison on Dec. 9, 2017. 

Just when it seemed as though the situation couldn’t get worse for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team, it did.

Much worse, in fact.

The Badgers, already low on experience and depth in the backcourt, entered their game against Marquette reeling from the news they’d be without two of their guards indefinitely.

The Golden Eagles then proceeded to add insult to injury Saturday afternoon, rolling to an 82-63 win at the Kohl Center to drop UW three games below .500 for the first time in 16 years.

Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard combined for 47 points to help Marquette record its most lopsided victory over the Badgers since a 94-64 win in the 1981-82 regular-season finale.

UW (4-7) hasn’t been this far below .500 since going 1-4 to start the Bo Ryan era. That team rebounded to win a share of the 2001-02 Big Ten title and make it to the NCAA tournament, but it’s hard imagining these Badgers bouncing back the way Ryan’s first team did.

“They’ve had to deal with a lot,” UW coach Greg Gard said. “In time, this will help continue to improve and mature guys. And hopefully in the long run we’ll be better because of it.”

Gard found out Friday morning that sophomore point guard D’Mitrik Trice needs surgery to repair a right foot injury. Trice is scheduled to undergo a procedure on Monday and, according to a UW release, will begin an initial rehabilitation process in two to three weeks.

As that news was settling in, the Badgers practiced Friday with freshman Brad Davison at point guard and freshman Kobe King getting reps as his backup. But King, a key reserve on the wing, injured his left knee during practice and could miss significant time.

Davison was joined by sophomore Brevin Pritzl in the starting backcourt, and former walk-on T.J. Schlundt played a career-high 13 minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, freshman walk-on Walt McGrory, who was planning to redshirt, suited up in case of emergency.

“It is what it is,” Gard said of the injuries. “It’s part of the game and you’ve got to continue to improve and regroup and adjust.”

The timing couldn’t been much worse considering Marquette features a dynamic backcourt scoring duo in Rowsey and Howard.

Rowsey, a senior guard, scored 18 of his game-high 24 points after halftime. Howard, a sophomore guard, had 16 of his 23 in the first half.

Sophomore forward Sam Hauser added 16 points and helped Marquette (7-3) shoot 63.6 percent from 3-point range. Rowsey, Howard and Hauser were a combined 13 of 20 from beyond the arc as the Golden Eagles torched the Badgers for 1.34 points per possession.

Gard gave credit where credit is due by acknowledging that the Golden Eagles, particularly Rowsey and Howard, made some shots with hands in their faces.

But UW had too many breakdowns in ball-screen situations that left Rowsey and Howard with open looks. “Not switching when we’re supposed to switch,” UW junior center Ethan Happ said, “or switching when we’re not supposed to switch.”

The Golden Eagles also exploited the Badgers’ transition defense at times. Officially, Marquette finished with eight fast-break points, but that stat didn’t tell the whole story of how often the Golden Eagles’ tempo left the Badgers scrambling on defense.

“When they’re on, when you allow them to have that much space, whether it’s in transition or what Rowsey and Howard were able to do with just pulling 3s over the top of people, that puts a lot of pressure on your defense,” Gard said.

The thing Marquette did best was capitalize on nearly every UW miscue. The Badgers finished with 12 turnovers and the Golden Eagles scored 28 points off those mistakes, an average of 2.3 points per possession.

“I thought our guys showed great poise from the very beginning and maintained that throughout the 40 minutes,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “It was as good as a 40-minute effort as we’ve had all season and we knew it would take one of those to walk out of here with a win.”

Rowsey played only nine minutes in the first half after picking up three fouls, but Howard picked up the slack and helped Marquette build a 41-32 lead. That cushion would have been higher had Davison, who finished with a career-high 20 points, not provided a spark that helped UW turn a 17-point hole into a more manageable deficit.

The Badgers twice pulled to within six points early in the second half, but Rowsey took over with Howard on the bench in foul trouble.

After Happ scored to cut Marquette’s lead to 46-40 with 15 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the game, Rowsey scored 15 points during a 19-6 run that gave the Golden Eagles a 19-point cushion and took the wind out of the Badgers’ sails.

Happ, who finished with 17 points and nine rebounds but also had a game-high five turnovers, was asked after the game where UW goes from here.

“Stay together, that’s the biggest thing,” Happ said, pointing to rough stretches he experienced during the previous two seasons. “That’s what we did, we just stayed together and kept fighting and didn’t hang up the shoes. We’re just going to keep doing that, keep playing.”


Jim Polzin covers Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball for the Wisconsin State Journal.