MADISON, Wis. – With preseason All-America Ethan Happ struggling, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard benched his 6-10 star down the stretch and looked for someone else to lead the Badgers past Illinois.
Brad Davison and Khalil Iverson answered the call.
Davison scored 18 points, Iverson added 16 and the No. 22 Badgers held off Illinois 64-58 on Monday night with their leading scorer on the bench for the final four minutes.
"So many nights he's carried us," Gard said of Happ. "Tonight we had to have other people carry him."
Happ, who averages 18 points, scored only six points on 3-of-7 shooting, was 0-for-3 from the foul line and had three turnovers, including one just before he went to the bench.
Happ has missed 11 consecutive free throws to drop to 43.4 percent from the line on the season. But Gard said he benched Happ because of his decision-making, not his free-throw shooting.
In stepped Davison and Iverson for the Badgers (18-8, 10-5 Big Ten).
Davison (Maple Grove) pulled up for a jumper that put the Badgers up 54-52 with 3 minutes, 21 seconds left, giving them the lead for good. After Iverson blocked Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Davison collected the loose ball and took it in for a layup and a 56-52 lead with 2:45 to go.
From there, the teams traded blows until Nate Reuvers (Lakeville North) scored on a putback of a missed Brevin Pritzl three-pointer to give Wisconsin a 62-58 lead. Iverson then stole the ball on the next Illinois possession following a timeout, helping the Badgers put the game away.
Iverson said his coaches told players which inbounds play they thought Illinois might run and called it correctly.
"I was just trying to anticipate when he was going to throw the ball in," he said. "I think I'm pretty quick, and I just threw my hand up there."
Aaron Jordan scored 12 points for the Illini (10-16, 6-9), who were looking for their first five-game winning streak since 2013 but have lost their past 15 meetings with Wisconsin.