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Ethan Happ

Wisconsin center Ethan Happ had a game-high 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds and seven assists in the Badgers' 64-54 win over the 2nd-ranked Wolverines on Saturday at the Kohl Center. 

The Hack-a-Happ strategy may continue, even after mixed results Saturday afternoon.

But future opponents of the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team probably learned a valuable lesson about how to go about fouling Ethan Happ after Michigan’s failed strategy worked in the Badgers’ favor down the stretch at the Kohl Center.

Happ played a huge role in UW’s 64-54 upset win over the No. 2 Wolverines, producing a game-high 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds and seven assists. Three of those points came on one possession in the closing minute after a gaffe by Michigan.

UW was leading 57-54 when Michigan coach John Beilein ordered freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis to foul Happ away from the ball. Brazdeikis did his part, making contact with the Badgers senior center while trying to get the attention of the officials.

A whistle blew and Brazdeikis was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul, presumably for an infraction listed in the NCAA’s official rulebook as “fouling a player clearly away from the ball who is not directly involved with the play, specifically designed to stop or keep clock from starting.”

Beilein was irate, but his protests went nowhere. Happ made 1 of 2 free throws, then ended the possession with a putback of his own miss to give the Badgers a 60-54 lead with 21.7 seconds remaining.

“It’s a rule,” UW coach Greg Gard said. “It’s in the (2018-19 instructional) video. You can’t do it. It made the video after last season. Anything when there’s not a play on the ball like that, it’s a rule. I thought it was the right call.”

Apparently, Beilein never saw that video and wasn’t aware of the rule. He said in his postgame news conference that he never got an explanation from an officiating crew that included D.J. Carstensen, Donnie Eppley and Lewis Garrison.

“We had never done that off the ball, but yeah, you can do that,” Beilein said. “I’ve done it before. But apparently they saw that as (an intentional foul).

“I think Iggy was probably telling them, ‘I’m fouling him, I’m fouling him. The way I interpreted it, you put two hands on them, you grab them and you’re fouling them. It’s not a swipe at his arm, so I’ve got to be schooled up on that. Apparently it’s something new to me that I have to educate myself in. Because I told him, ‘Foul off the ball.’ No different than fouling him on the ball.”

Michigan also fouled Happ on purpose three possessions earlier, though he at least had the ball in his hands that time. He also went 1 of 2 from the line on that possession.

Book club

Dave Anderson, an author/motivational speaker, addressed the team on Friday afternoon and seemed to make an impression on the Badgers.

One of Anderson’s messages was the importance of being “unfazed” by events during a game. UW sophomore Brad Davison said “unfazed” became a mantra of sorts throughout the win over the Wolverines.

“Things may happen bad, still unfazed,” said Gard, who set up the visit from Anderson months ago. “Things happen good, still unfazed.

“There were other things. I’m not going to give you (everything). You’ve got to go read the book. ‘Unstoppable’ is the name of the book. That’ll give a plug in for Dave.”

Plenty in reserve

Gard was impressed by the contributions his team got from the bench, particularly sophomore forward Aleem Ford and redshirt freshman wing Kobe King.

Ford finished with nine points, making two 3-pointers to go along with a three-point play. King had six points and five rebounds, with UW outscoring Michigan by 16 points in the 31-plus minutes he was on the floor.

Gard said the bench, in general, provided a lift with its enthusiasm.

“Every timeout, I had to quiet them down because they were all encouraging and positive and chattering and trying to help coach guys on the bench,” Gard said. “That’s a good sign. It tells you your group is connected.”

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