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Men’s basketball suffers first loss of the season against Wisconsin

Cold shooting and dominant Badger post play sink Cavaliers

<p>Beekman was the only Cavalier to reach double digit scoring, finishing with 17 points.</p>

Beekman was the only Cavalier to reach double digit scoring, finishing with 17 points.

Wisconsin led wire-to-wire in the first game of the Fort Myers Tip-Off as they bested No. 24 Virginia, 65-41. The Badgers (3-2, 0-0 Big 10) were led by the inside presence of junior forward Steven Crowl, who had 15 points on 7-10 shooting paired with 10 rebounds — 4 of them on offense. The Cavaliers (4-1, 0-0 ACC) had no answer for the seven-footer, getting routed on the boards 48-21 overall and 20-3 on the offensive glass. 

Crowl set the tone on the first play of the game, winning the opening tip and then slamming home the first points of the game in just 15 seconds. Sophomore guard Ryan Dunn equalized for the Cavaliers on the next possession, but that would be as close as Virginia got to a lead all game. Wisconsin regained the lead the next time up the floor and then added a free throw moments later. 

Sophomore guard Isaac McKneely followed with a long two, then Dunn and freshman forward Blake Buchanan combined for a pair of big blocks a few possessions later. However, the Cavaliers couldn’t capitalize, falling further behind on a three-pointer from Crowl. Virginia’s senior guard Reece Beekman quickly responded with a three-pointer of his own, but the Cavaliers would fail to score for the next five minutes of game time as Wisconsin opened up an 18-7 lead.

Beekman finally ended the scoring drought with a pair of free throws, then swung the ball to sophomore guard Andrew Rohde for a three-pointer to close the gap to six points. The Badgers responded with a layup by sophomore guard Connor Essegian, then both teams settled in for a series of incredible defensive possessions, with nothing getting even close to going into the hoop.

The teams traded pairs of free throws, but Virginia ended the half on the wrong end of a 6-2 run and trailed 28-18 at the end of an ugly first half. Two elite defenses held each other to just 15-54 on first half field goals, and no scorer on either side reached double figures. Crowl led the game with nine points and six boards at intermission, torching the Cavalier’s interior defense. 

Virginia looked much better starting the second half. McKneely pickpocketed Crowl and turned it into a Rohde jumper on the other end. Dunn then put up another rebound and suddenly the Cavaliers seemed to be rolling. 

However, McKneely missed the ensuing jumper and Wisconsin fired back with a three-pointer and an easy layup sandwiched around a tough finish in traffic by Beekman. After a layup by Wahl, Virginia Coach Tony Bennett called timeout to let the Cavaliers breathe.

Out of this timeout, Virginia put together its most competent offensive stretch of the night. McKneely drained a fadeaway three-pointer from above the left break, then Beekman followed with a three-pointer of his own. On the next possession, a scorching hot Beekman ripped the ball from Wisconsin sophomore guard AJ Storr and slammed home an easy fast break dunk. Wisconsin proceeded to suck the wind right back out of Virginia’s sails with another contested corner three-pointer, but the Cavaliers fought on. Dunn forced a turnover then scored off of a give-and-go with Beekman, then Beekman finished a pretty and-one to bring the score to within five.

It seemed as if Virginia was working its way back into the game, but this would be as close as it got — the Cavaliers would be outscored 25-6 in the final 13 minutes of the game after this run. 

Crowl hit a jumper, forced a block, grabbed a rebound, then set up a Wisconsin dunk, all in sequence. Wisconsin would stretch Crowl’s dominance into an 11-0 run, emphasized by a thunderous dunk from the big man. 

Virginia’s shooting went ice cold, as nothing found its way through their hoop. Jumper after jumper rimmed out or missed the basket entirely, and the Badgers sank easy shot after easy shot. Beekman scored the Cavaliers’ final basket of the game with 5:26 left to play. They only attempted four shots in that final span, as Wisconsin held the ball until late in the shot clock, gobbled offensive rebounds and forced Cavalier turnovers left and right. 

When the dust settled, Wisconsin had won 65-41, outpacing Virginia 37-23 in the second half.

While the über-athletic Virginia frontcourt registered eight blocks, five of those by Dunn, their interior defense stood no match for Crowl and company. The Badgers would ultimately score 30 of their 65 points in the paint, 12 of them off offensive rebounds. Virginia, with only Buchanan standing taller than 6-foot-9, was unable to cope with Wisconsin’s gargantuan frontcourt of Crowl and Wahl.

“I think for us, the thing was to be more physical,” Crowl said. “The coaches did a great job with us on that. We showed that tonight. This is the first step.”

The Cavaliers suffered their coldest shooting day off the year against the grinding Badger defense. While Beekman was 6-12 from the field and 2-3 from deep, the rest of the team was just 2-12 from beyond the arc. Graduate student forward Jacob Groves went 1-10 overall and 0-3 from deep. Beekman would end the day with 17 points and seven assists, contributing close to half of the Cavaliers' points, but it just was not enough. Virginia scored just 15 baskets in the paint and Buchanan was held scoreless, putting tons of pressure on perimeter shooters that could not get hot. 

“I felt they ran their offense pretty well,” Beekman said after the game. “They took their time, were patient and made plays. They kind of wore us down.”

Virginia will close out the Fort Myers Tip-Off Invitational Wednesday, facing the West Virginia Mountaineers (2-2, 0-0 Big 12) in the consolation game at 6 p.m. on FS1. 

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