Strong finish allows Cavs to nab win vs. Wisconsin
Virginia finishes off Badgers with a 24-16 run, Bennett defeats former boss
Down 38-36 with 10 minutes, 18 seconds remaining, Virginia finished on a 24-16 run to defeat Wisconsin 60-54 at the Kohl Center Wednesday evening. With the victory, the Cavaliers (5-2, 0-0 ACC) became the 16th team ever to defeat the Badgers (4-3, 0-0 ACC) on their home floor during Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s 12-year tenure. The match marked Virginia’s third straight victory in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Junior guard Joe Harris finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-19 shooting for Virginia, which held Wisconsin to just 38.2 percent field goal shooting and only five free throw attempts all game.
The Cavaliers sealed the triumph by forcing Wisconsin into a hurried, deep 3-pointer that failed to find the rim with less than 10 seconds left, as coach Tony Bennett’s squad clung to a 58-54 lead.
Bennett, a former assistant under Ryan at Wisconsin and a disciple of the Wisconsin coach’s sluggish, defensively relentless brand of basketball, claimed his first career victory at the school where his father, Dick, led the Badgers to a Final Four appearance in 2000.
With two defensive gurus at the helm, the game started in predictably stingy fashion. Harris torched Wisconsin’s defense for 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting but nearly everyone else on the court struggled as the Cavaliers carried a 24-23 lead into the break.
The two teams exchanged baskets before freshman forward Evan Nolte’s two free throws sparked a 14-5 run to propel Virginia to a 50-43 lead. Harris and Nolte hit 3-pointers during the run while redshirt freshman point guard Tevin Jones — charged with running the offense down the stretch despite the availability of the previously-injured senior Jontel Evans — provided speed and savvy at the point.
Harris pushed the lead to 55-47 with 3:12 remaining, but three late Cavalier turnovers allowed Wisconsin to close within 57-54 on Jared Berggren’s free throws with 34 seconds left. Junior forward Akil Mitchell’s three free throws closed out the evening’s scoring.
Mitchell posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and sophomore forward Darion Atkins tallied a season-high 14 points to accompany his seven rebounds.
Ben Brust led the Badgers with 15 points.