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Marquette looks to stop Happ, Trice in latest installment of rivalry

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Marquette looks to stop Happ, Trice in latest installment of rivalry

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

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Before Marquette senior Matt Heldt walks onto the Al McGuire Court at Fiserv Forum for his last Marquette-Wisconsin game, the Neenah, Wisconsin, native had to make a difficult decision: which family members get tickets.

“I had to take some of my family members out because I had so many last year,” Heldt said. “I think I’ll see their reciprocation of that (at Christmas).”

But Heldt and the Golden Eagles will have a far tougher task than which family members get tickets. Marquette will need to slow down 6-foot-10 senior Ethan Happ.

Happ is averaging a team-high 17.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He is also shooting 56 percent from the field. Wisconsin uses him on 35.1 percent of possessions this season, per KenPom, a prominent college basketball analytics site.

“He has proven why he is one of the best players in the country,” junior forward Sam Hauser said.

Heldt and Wojciechowski said guarding Happ is not just as simple as putting the right guy on him.

“You definitely have to game plan against him,” Heldt said. “It’s not just one guy guarding him. Our whole team is going to have to step up and guard him. He’s going to have to play against all five of us.”

“Happ is not a guy that you can say, ‘You got him,’ and ‘have at it,’” Wojciechowski said. “You can double him, but you can’t be on an island guarding him.”

Marquette has already faced some of the best big men in the country, including Kansas’ Udoka Azibuike. 

“None of them have the unique game that Happ does,” Wojciechowski said. “It presents some unusual challenges.”

Happ scored 17 points on 8-of-15 shooting against the Golden Eagles last season but committed five turnovers.

Unlike last year, where Happ was the team’s only offensive threat, the 6-foot-10 center has options on the perimeter if he doesn’t have a good look.

“They have an unbelievable starting point with Ethan Happ,” Wojciechowski said.

The Badgers have gone from shooting 33.5 percent from long range in 2017-‘18 to 41.6 percent from three this season.

Wisconsin sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice, who missed last year’s Marquette game with an injury, is averaging 17 points per game on 30-for-50 shooting from 3-point range.

“He’s a very good decision-maker, he does not turn the ball over and he’s become a lights-out shooter,” Wojciechowski said. “Happ gets a lot of the attention, and rightly so because he’s an outstanding player. But Trice, in my mind, has been one of the keys to their early-season success.”

Fortunately for Marquette, the emergence of other weapons on the Badgers coincides with a much better MU defense. The Golden Eagles went from 182nd last season to 52nd in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.

Wojciechowski partially attributed the improvement to some of the players that could be guarding Happ: sophomore Theo John and redshirt junior Ed Morrow.

“One of the reasons we’re a better defensive team is because we’re really protecting the basket well,” Wojciechowski said. “Everybody’s responsible for that, but certainly Theo and Ed have played a large role in that.”

If Marquette can stop Happ, there’s certainly not a lack of confidence on the offensive side of the court.

“It’s going to come down to the defensive end,” Hauser said. “If we play good enough defense, our offense is going to come.”

Junior guard Markus Howard scored 45 points the last time Marquette tried knocking off a No. 12 team, but Wojciechowski said he is not expecting Howard to do that again.

“We don’t expect him to have 45 like he did against Kansas State,” Wojciechowski said. “It sure would be nice. I wouldn’t turn it down.”

When gametime hits in the first Marquette-Wisconsin game at Fiserv Forum, Marquette won’t be shying away its final chance to play Ethan Happ.

“You can’t ask for much more,” Hauser said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere to play in.”

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About the Writer
John Steppe, Executive Sports Editor

John Steppe is the executive sports editor for the Marquette Wire. He is a junior majoring in journalism and double-minoring in digital media and Spanish....

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