CHICAGO — Very often when a team wants to stop the top player on the opposing team, that player’s name will be circled on the pregame scouting report.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said Ethan Happ’s named was "double circled" when the Cornhuskers went up against Wisconsin on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center.
"I told him in the handshake line ‘I’m not going to miss you, brother,’" Miles added.
After Friday, Happ probably isn’t going to miss Miles either. Wisconsin won the game, 66-62, to advance to a semifinal matchup with Michigan State today, but it happened despite the former Rockridge High School star having what almost certainly was his worst game of the season.
The three-time first-team All-Big Ten pick and All-American candidate finished with a season-low four points, seven rebounds (his fourth lowest total of the season) and seven turnovers.
"I didn’t play well obviously …," Happ told reporters after a lengthy postgame stay in the training room. "Credit to Nebraska. It was kind of unlike most defenses. They were totally leaving their guys. I was getting double-teamed by two guys and then there was a third guy who was leaving their guy any time I turned my back. They did a good job."
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said he didn’t think his 6-foot-10 senior ever really got comfortable in the game.
Happ, who averages 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and had fewer than 10 points in only two other games this season, said he just didn’t do a good enough job of settling himself down.
"I want to help the team so much and attack …," he said. "They made a concentrated effort not to let me score. I should have done a better job thinking that after seeing what they did to (Maryland’s Bruno Fernando) in the game before."
Fernando, also a first-team All-Big Ten player, had a season-low three points in a loss to Nebraska on Thursday.
"Nebraska decided that they were going to take me away by any means, and that means other guys need to step up if we were going to win," Happ said. "And obviously we won."
Waiting: Miles has been rumored to possibly be in danger of losing his job after the Cornhuskers finished 5-15 in the Big Ten, although they put together an inspired late-season run that included an overtime conquest of Iowa last Sunday and two victories in the tournament.
Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos announced Friday that he will delay his decision on Miles a few days to see if the Cornhuskers (18-16) receive an invitation to the NIT.
"Once our season is completed, my evaluation of our men’s basketball program will draw to a close," Moos said.
No waiting: The only other Big Ten coach who might have been worried about his job status was Penn State’s Pat Chambers, and he received a vote of confidence Thursday night after his team was eliminated from the tournament by Minnesota.
Athletic director Sandy Barbour announced that the school will stay with Chambers, who is 127-140 and has never gotten the Nittany Lions into the NCAA tournament.
Mr. 600: Michigan State’s 77-70 victory over Ohio State in the first game Friday was the 600th career victory for long-time Spartans head coach Tom Izzo.
"They asked me what that means," Izzo said. "And I said, it means two things: You're getting old, and you're 600 shy of Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim."
Asked what advice he would give to young coaches, Izzo launched into a lengthy monologue in which he basically said most schools these days are not patient enough to allow coaches to establish their programs.
"Stick with what you believe in and hopefully get hired by the right people," Izzo said. "I think this ‘hired to be fired’ thing we're in right now is a little crazy. ... You can't change a program until you build your culture. And culture is not something you build in two years, three years or four years, if you want to build it the right way."