New York — Ethan Happ had just scored 32 of Wisconsin’s 61 points and when he was done with a TV interview, the Badger fans at Madison Square Garden cheered him as he left the court waving and blowing kisses.
“It’s always special to play in MSG but once you get going it turns into a basketball game,” the sophomore forward said after the 15th-ranked Badgers survived a bad offensive game for a 61-54 overtime victory over Rutgers on Saturday. “But when you get a curtain call in Madison Square Garden you’re not going to turn it down.”
Happ scored seven of his career-high total in the overtime and he scored eight of Wisconsin’s points in the 13-4 rally to close regulation, including the basket that tied it at 45 with 2 seconds left.
“No one could throw it in the ocean for most of the game,” Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig said. “But we keep battling when things aren’t going our way. We get in the post to Ethan and he’s a great player and made the right reads.”
Happ was the only player for the Badgers (18-3, 7-1 Big Ten) to shoot above 50 percent, and the team finished at 33.3 percent for the game (20 for 60), including 3 for 25 from 3-point range. Happ was 12 for 18.
Corey Sanders had 15 points for the Scarlet Knights (12-10, 1-8), who lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
The Badgers are tied for first in the Big Ten with No. 22 Maryland. They have won 14 of their last 15 games.
Wisconsin struggled with its shooting, but the Badgers made six of their seven shots in the overtime.
“We had to find other ways to win besides scoring,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “The maturity of this group was evident. They didn’t panic in the huddles. Credit our guys for the way they gutted it out defensively.”
They took the lead for good on a reverse by Happ on which he was fouled. He missed the free throw but corralled it and laid it in for a 51-48 lead with 2:42 to play.
Both the field goal percentage and 3-point percentage were season lows for Wisconsin.
“I thought their defense had an extra gear tonight,” Koenig said of Rutgers. He finished 2 for 13 from the field including 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
Rutgers finished with a 44-41 rebound advantage but the Scarlet Knights committed 19 turnovers that turned into 17 points for the Badgers.
“With them it’s pick your poison,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “They have the 3-point shooters and they have Happ inside.”
“We’re getting there,” the first-year coach said. “We have to figure out a way to win down the stretch and make that big bucket.”
More Big Ten
No. 22 Maryland 85, (at) Minnesota 78: Justin Jackson had a career-high 28 points and 10 rebounds, making all five of his 3-point attempts, to lead Maryland in its sixth straight win.
Jackson and fellow freshman Kevin Huerter combined to go 10 for 12 from 3-point range. Huerter finished with 19 points and Melo Trimble added 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as the Terrapins (19-2, 7-1) kept pace with Wisconsin in a tie for first place in the Big Ten.
Akeem Springs led the Gophers (15-7, 3-6) with a season-high 23 points, but they lost their fifth consecutive game despite a 41-31 rebound advantage and a 21-10 assist-to-turnover ratio. The biggest problem for Minnesota was its defense, with Maryland making more than half of its field-goal attempts (30 for 59), including an 11-for-18 performance from beyond the arc.
(At) Penn State 71, Illinois 67: Shep Garner scored 18 points, Payton Banks added 17 as Penn State snapped a three-game losing skid. Tony Carr and Mike Watkins chipped in 13 and 10 points, respectively, and Watkins pulled down nine rebounds for the Nittany Lions who held on after leading by 20 at halftime. Malcolm Hill led Illinois with 19 points and Jalen Colman-Lands added 13.
Penn State (12-10, 4-5 Big Ten) led for all but 1:15 and took control early with pinpoint shooting.
The Nittany Lions made 60 percent of their first half shots and Garner hit the first of his team’s nine 3-pointers on his first attempt of the game. Meanwhile, the Illini (13-9, 3-6) endured two scoreless stretches in the first 20 minutes to trail 45-25 at halftime.
(At) Iowa 85, Ohio State 72: Brady Ellingson came off the bench to score 17 points and Iowa snapped a three-game losing streak.
Reserve freshman Ryan Kriener had 14 for the Hawkeyes (12-10, 4-5 Big Ten), who won despite missing senior star Peter Jok — who sat out to rest a nagging back injury.
Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 21 points a game, had started 56 games in a row for the Hawkeyes. But Iowa played inspired in his absence, jumping ahead by 11 at halftime and getting its first 61 points from underclassmen.
Jae’Sean Tate scored 17 to lead the Buckeyes (13-9, 3-6), who fell to 1-4 on the road after an effort that resembled an 89-66 loss at Wisconsin two weeks ago.
Ohio State, which trailed by as much as 20, let Iowa shoot 50 percent and needed a late run made the final score as close as it was.