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This was not the year the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball anticipated.The Badgers, who entered the season ranked No. 17 nationally, were supposed to have a solid core built upon Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter. They were supposed to be a competitive team throughout the 2015-16 season.But they did not deliver on those promises, and are now 12-9 overall, 4-4 Big Ten and unranked.But a recent resurgence has been built upon the efforts of a new face. A face unfamiliar to most Wisconsin fans some short months ago has now taken much of the spotlight off that trio.Ethan Happ, a redshirt freshman, entered this season determined to make an impact, especially after spending the majority of his redshirt year battling Frank Kaminsky in practice. From his perspective and the perspective of many around him, that seemed to be a smart decision.“Going against Frank and Nigel and Sam [Dekker] every day in practice made my game jump a lot more than playing six to eight minutes [off the bench] would have,” Happ said in October before the season began.In hindsight, you can see where his polished post-moves came from — moves that have come to dominate Big Ten interior defenses and helped him to grow into his role.In a thrilling win over No. 4 Michigan State Jan. 17, they guided Happ to 14 points, which included the game-winning layup. In the Jan. 21 win against Penn State, he took his game a step further by scoring 20 points and securing 11 rebounds.With two solid performances under his belt, Happ then showcased his potential in Tuesday’s overtime win against Indiana.The Illinois-native dropped 25 points, hauled in eight rebounds and delivered two blocks in the 82-79 thriller.Men’s basketball: Hayes, Happ head Wisconsin’s overtime victory against IndianaThe Indiana Hoosiers have not won in the Kohl Center since 1998. Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ were on a mission Read…“To be able to gut it out and persevere and get stops at key times and get to the free throw line 37 times was obviously thanks the play of Nigel and Ethan,” UW head coach Greg Gard said. “Especially when we had Showalter in foul trouble.”Happ’s ability is being noticed by not only his coach, but fans on a national stage after these two performances. His efforts even put into question whether or not there’s a higher ceiling for Happ than previously thought.While he does not possess a threatening jump shot, teams have been unable to keep him from getting to the rim.Happ’s athleticism draws several fouls per game and his ability to down tough hook shots makes him an ever-present threat, especially since he’s made a considerable effort to make more plays down low in recent games.“[Assistant] coach [Lamont] Paris works with the bigs a lot, and he’s emphasized getting to the rim more,” Happ said. “Early in the season there were a lot of times where I was fading away from the basket. I still do have times when I do that, but more times than not I’m trying to get to the rim now.”Happ’s work in the paint has drawn defenders and eased some of the pressure on bigger UW stars such as Hayes, Koenig and Showalter.Earlier in the season, Hayes shouldered most of the burden on offense, often finding himself in isolation situations with little to no help. But since the surge of Happ’s play and of bench players like Jordan Hill, Alex Illikainen and Charlie Thomas over these past three games, a reformed offense has emerged.“We’ve started to develop winning habits,” Hill said. “Last year we were able to win close games because we had those habits and we did things that you do when you’re used to and accustomed to winning; you will find a way to win those games.”Hill, a redshirt sophomore, took that redshirt season last year during the Badgers’ national championship run and was alongside Happ during practice. The two have combined on some quality plays this season and built upon their chemistry developed in their joint-redshirt seasons.While Hill was not a direct part of Wisconsin’s success last season, he does see how Happ’s and the team’s recent development have led to better play and an equal share of responsibility.“Earlier this season, we labored in finding our way,” Hill said. “We were doing things that would put us at disadvantages and ultimately make us lose. Now we’re doing a better job of doing the little things, like tonight where [Indiana] missed a layup and we all boxed out and [Happ] came up with a tough rebound. Earlier in the season, we would’ve given up an offensive rebound.”Whether it’s the little things like catching rebounds or correct positioning, or a defensive-zone steal and coasting layup against Indiana, Happ has found his rhythm.It will not take a 25-point outing from him each time Wisconsin takes the court in order to win, but it couldn’t hurt if the redshirt sophomore delivered more games of the sort.Happ has been consistent recently, and that is what’s paramount to his success.In order to keep growing as a player that is all he needs to do — be consistent. Wisconsin fans will appreciate him for it, especially since the spotlight sticking on him wasn’t supposed to happen.
Frankie Dettori’s chasing a double in racing’s Epsom Derby this afternoon.The jockey won The Oaks on Enable at the Surrey course yesterday – and rides Cracksman in the showpiece event later.It would be the third time he’s taken the title in his career – and they line-up as second-favourites behind Cliffs of Moher. That goes to post at 4.30.Meanwhile the Royal County Handicap at 25-to-four is the feature a seven-race flat card at Navan which begins at twenty-past-one.While there’s a seven-race jumps card from 6pm at Tramore. Stock photo of horse racing | Photo © Pixabay