Context is everything. Saturday’s contentious battle between the Michigan Wolverines and Wisconsin Badgers created an interaction which was amicable, but could have been perceived as supremely nasty if context was removed from the picture. Let Michigan coach John Beilein tell the story of what was said when he met Wisconsin star Ethan Happ following the Wolverines’ 61-52 win over the Badgers.
“Ethan Happ said to me after the game: ‘I hope to see you again this season,’” John Beilein said. “No Ethan. I don’t want to see you again the rest of my life.”
It was nothing personal — not as an expression of animosity. If it WAS an expression of personal dislike, it came only from a professional vantage point. Beilein is paid to win games, and if Michigan faces Wisconsin for a third time this season in the Big Ten Tournament (the two teams have split their first two meetings after this revenge win by Michigan), he knows that Happ will make life very difficult for the Maize and Blue. This was certainly the case on Saturday.
[bctt tweet=”‘I hope to see you again this season,’” John Beilein said. “No Ethan. I don’t want to see you again the rest of my life.”” username=”CBBToday”]
Happ scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Those numbers might seem modest, but Happ was out for a nine-minute stretch in the second half after picking up his third foul early in the half. Had he stayed on the floor longer, Wisconsin might have won. As it was, Greg Gard’s decision to bench Happ for extended minutes played a role in shaping the outcome. Michigan didn’t dominate the non-Happ minutes — just 17-13 in that nine-minute sequence — but that was still a four-point advantage which could have become something very different with Happ on the floor.
Beilein is smart to not want any part of Happ at the Big Ten Tournament. If these teams do meet in a month, Happ might not fall into foul trouble.
That, of course, is pure speculation. What is a fact right now: Michigan leads the Big Ten, while Wisconsin and Michigan State play each other next. The Wolverines have to like their position, regardless of whether they meet Happ in March.
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