No. 18 Virginia takes down Wisconsin in Monday night showdown

Cavaliers prevail in the ACC-Big Ten matchup

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Senior guard Devon Hall provided a spark on offense and consistency on defense, helping lead the Cavaliers to victory.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

With a sparkling 6-0 record to start the season and a newly minted spot in the AP Top 25 Poll at No. 18, the Virginia men’s basketball team looked to continue its winning ways against Wisconsin Monday night. In front of a packed crowd at John Paul Jones Arena and a nationally-televised audience on ESPN2, the Cavaliers (7-0, 0-0 ACC) took down the Badgers (3-4, 0-0 Big Ten) in a low-scoring 49-37 game to win the ACC-Big Ten matchup.

Virginia’s defense was strong once again, limiting Wisconsin’s star junior forward Ethan Happ to only 14 points.

“I have so much respect for [Happ] as a player, watching him on film and the things that he does. I thought, individually, guys did a good job on him,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “With a player like that you just try to make him earn it all game long, and I thought the guys did a great job."

It was a close first half between the two teams, with Virginia getting off to an early lead, but Wisconsin staying right behind. The Cavaliers ended up taking a 24-20 lead into the half. Virginia was led by senior guard Devon Hall and sophomore guard Kyle Guy in the first half, with both players scoring nine points in the first 20 minutes of the game. Hall was a sparkling 4-4, including 1-1 from behind the arc, while Guy put up 10 shots on 40 percent shooting and was 1-3 from the three-point line.

Senior forward Isaiah Wilkins was also a huge help in the first half, notching seven rebounds, including two on the offensive end to help keep Virginia offensive possessions alive.

On the defensive end of the court, the Cavaliers and their pack-line defense were playing spectacularly as usual, holding Wisconsin to only 20 points in the first half while picking up two steals and a block.

Guy came out of the half on fire, picking up six points within the first five minutes of the second half to double Virginia’s lead and put them up 34-26. He would finish the game with 17 points despite shooting just 1-6 from the three-point line. Guy showcased an array of moves to get to the basket — something he said he’s worked on.

“Definitely last year it was a little more one-dimensional and that was just something that, as I've said a thousand times, I just tried to work on this summer and I think it's starting to show," Guy said.

In addition, Hall had a big game, scoring 16 points on 7-10 shooting.

With Wilkins in foul trouble after picking up his third foul in the second half, Virginia looked to their two other bigs in the rotation in junior center Jack Salt and sophomore forward Mamadi Diakite to pick up their play, and both responded, showing off their inside game on both the offensive end and defensive ends.

Hall and Guy talked about the play of Salt and Diakite after the game.

“Even on the offensive end too, we throw it down there and tell those guys to go ahead and make a play,” Hall said.

"They have definitely earned the right to make plays in the post when they get it,” Guy said.

Salt had a big second half, wreaking havoc on the defensive end and rebounding the ball at a high level. He would finish the game with eight rebounds, including three on the offensive glass.

Backed by an energetic and loud crowd at JPJ, Virginia began to pull away from Wisconsin towards the middle of the second half, using a 12-0 run to extend their lead to 16 with around 10 minutes left in the half, having outscored the Badgers 18-6.

Virginia was dominant on the boards throughout, out-rebounding Wisconsin 39-30 and 14-9 on the offensive end.

“I thought the job that [Diakite], [Salt] and [Wilkins] did on the glass was terrific just to keep points together,” Bennett said. “We took some good shots and we struggled to put them in, but those offensive rebounds were significant for us.”

Virginia will now get a couple of days off before they take on Lehigh at home Saturday at 12 p.m. The Cavaliers will then get ready to go on the road for a challenging non-conference matchup against No. 19 West Virginia next Tuesday at 7 p.m. Virginia will then have an extended 11-day break from play during finals week. 

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