2019.03.21.EMG.BCG.MBB.vs.UW-3.jpg

Badgers forward Ethan Happ (22) runs through drills during practice. Ducks head coach Dana Altman addresses the team during practice. Wisconsin men's basketball prepares to take on University of Wiscon Badgers at SAP Center in San Jose, CA. on Mar 21, 2019. (Ben Green/Emerald)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Oregon’s media day was full of the same message: “wall-up.” That’s the strategy to stop Wisconsin center Ethan Happ.

It’s at least the strategy to try.

Happ is a 6-foot-10 senior who dominates Wisconsin’s offense. He takes 30 percent of the teams shots and leads them in points, rebounds and assists. Oregon’s attention will be on him when the Ducks take the floor to face the Badgers on Friday. If they slow him down, then Oregon will have its best chance to win.

Easier said than done.

Oregon center Kenny Wooten is one of the best shot blockers in the country, but he knows Happ is a challenge the Ducks haven’t faced this year.

“He would definitely be the best big guy I’ve played against,” Wooten said. “It’s remarkable. He’s an amazing player. We watched film on him; we just have to have them play through somebody else.”

Easier said than done.

Happ has all the tools to deal damage when he gets to his spot in the post. He has a variety of moves. He’ll pump fake defenders and draw a foul. The up-and-under is an option, or he’ll drive at the defender and spin by him.

It’s one reason why he was First Team All-Big Ten this season. He has the best individual player rating in the country on KenPom.com, a college basketball analytics website. So how do you stop him?

“First thing you try is to make it hard for him to catch it,” Oregon senior forward Paul White said. “Once he does catch it, you’ve got to try and not give him too many angles and wall-up. Let him try and shoot over you than have him put you under the basket and have an easy bucket. It’s going to be a team effort. He’s a great player.”

Easier said than done.

It’s “a team effort,” yes, but if you do try and double team him, he is a great passer who can pass out of the double team to the open player. He’s 16th in the country in assist rate. If Oregon leaves perimeter players open, Happ will find them for an open 3, and Wisconsin has three players hovering around 40 percent shooting beyond the arc.

“He really knows how to pass the ball,” Oregon center Francis Okoro said. “He knows how to distribute. He knows where all of his teammates are. That’s going to be a problem for us, but I think me and my teammates, we talked about it and we know what to do.”

The Ducks say they aren’t going to change their defense too much. They’ve thrived on defense over the last eight games and the Ducks believe in what they can do. Wisconsin plays with a slow tempo on offense, just like Oregon. But it will be the same formula of feeding Happ the ball, and nobody has stopped him yet.

“If we were 1x focused the other day, this time we’ve got to be 3x focused,” Okoro said.

Do I have to repeat myself?

Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917


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