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Ethan Happ

Wisconsin senior Ethan Happ blocks the shot of Iowa guard Connor McCaffery in the first half of the Badgers' 65-45 win over the Hawkeyes on Senior Night March 7, at the Kohl Center in Madison. 

Iowa got the full Ethan Happ treatment Thursday night.

University of Wisconsin men's basketball fans know the feeling. They've been getting the full Ethan Happ treatment for four years ... and loving every minute of it.

On Senior Night for the Badgers, Happ, UW's 6-foot-10 forward, gave the Kohl Center fans something to remember him by, leading 21st-ranked UW to a 65-45 victory over the NCAA-bound but fading Hawkeyes.

No, Happ didn't score 30 points and pull down 20 rebounds to single-handedly demolish Iowa. Instead, his final home game in a UW uniform showcased his wide variety of skills and the multitude of ways he can impact a game. He simply got the better of the Hawkeyes in every way imaginable.

He had his customary double-double — 21 points and 14 rebounds — but that was only scratching the surface of what Happ brought to the Badgers. He was the primary defender on Iowa's leading scorer, forward Tyler Cook, who went scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting after coming into the game averaging 15.8 points per contest.

But there's more. Happ had eight offensive rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and two steals. He was the man in the middle and therefore instrumental in breaking Iowa's pressure defense time and again. Oh, and he had a career-best 11 made free throws (on 18 attempts).

Happ also forced most of Iowa's big men to spend time on the bench with foul trouble. The four bigs for the Hawkeyes — Cook, Ryan Kriener, Nicholas Baer and Luka Garza — had 15 totals fouls as he went strong to the basket and aggressively battled for offensive boards. In all, he drew 14 of Iowa's 25 fouls, seven in each half.

It was quite a night's work and Happ, a perfectionist who is seldom satisfied with his play, admitted afterward that playing well and winning the game made Senior Night very special for him.

"It was very satisfying to play a complete game," he said. "I've always prided myself on that throughout my career, to not only do things offensively but help out defensively, steals, rebounds, blocks, whatever it may be. I've always tried to be kind of an everything guy. And I did a little bit of everything tonight, which is gratifying to do that on my last night here."

Happ's final totals were a surprise because he didn't score a basket in the first half, settling for five points on 5-for-8 shooting from the free throw line. Iowa stopped double-teaming him as much in the second half and he went off immediately, scoring 11 of UW's first 17 points as the Badgers blew out to a 49-28 lead midway through the half. When the rout was over, Happ had a double-double — 16 points and 10 rebounds — in the second half alone.

"He's a good player," said Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw, who filled in for the suspended Fran McCaffery. "We wanted to mix it up on him, doubling some, not doubling some, and just try to keep changing things up a little bit. He's a tough player."

Amazingly, coach Greg Gard was convinced following Wednesday's practice that Happ would go out with a bang in his final game at the Kohl Center. That hasn't always been the case, either. Happ and Gard have disagreed at times over how hard Happ, who shoulders an abnormally heavy burden during games, should work in practice.

Happ showed up ready to practice Wednesday, then went out and stuffed the stat sheet against Iowa Thursday.

"He racked up those stats yesterday in practice," Gard said. "He won the game yesterday. How he practiced yesterday was as good as he's been all year. That's something we've been trying to encourage, and encourage is a nice word I'll use (about) how he practices every single day. His energy, his body language, his everything was off the charts yesterday. Maybe Senior Night was in sight. I don't know what it is, but he played tonight how he practiced yesterday. I went home last night going, 'You know what? We'll be OK tomorrow because our leader, our best player, was really good today.' When you have that, it's infectious. It really is. Other guys feed off of it. That was good to see yesterday. I actually left practice with a smile on my face."

As affable as he is in real life, Gard doesn't smile much in March. It goes with the territory, especially with tournament play less than a week away. But Thursday's victory clinched at least a share of fourth place in the Big Ten Conference for the Badgers, who missed the top four last season after reaching that lofty status for 16 consecutive seasons.

Though he's had plenty of help, Happ has been the single biggest factor in making that turnaround happen. But with Big Ten defenses zeroing in on him like never before, he's also had a few rough stretches during the conference season.

Still Happ ranks in the top three in points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and steals on UW's all-time lists, covering all the bases like no player in school history. Perhaps the most encouraging sign Thursday was his 61.1 percent shooting from the foul line.

"It was good to see Ethan knock down shots," Gard said. "He's been working at it relentlessly, tirelessly. It's non-stop. I even get tired of watching him shoot free throws."

No one will ever get tired of watching Happ influence a game the way he did against Iowa.

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Contact Tom Oates at toates@madison.com.

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Tom Oates has been part of the Wisconsin State Journal sports department since 1980 and became its editorial voice in 1996, traversing the state and country to bring readers a Madison perspective on the biggest sports stories of the day.