The fourth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers (6-0) topped the 25th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers 53-46 on Black Friday to win the Battle 4 Atlantis. Riding high off of a 15-point lead going into the break, Virginia did just enough to slow Wisconsin’s improved offensive attack in the second half and hold on to the victory.
Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ lead all scorers with 22 points, but he couldn’t find consistent success in 1-on-1 situations versus Virginia’s Jack Salt. This made it difficult for Wisconsin to snap out of several scoring droughts.
Even though Wisconsin slightly out-shot Virginia 43.8% to 37%, Virginia attempted six more shots than Wisconsin and made two more three point attempts. The culprit? Wisconsin committed 13 turnovers to Virginia’s five.
The first half went about as badly as it could for the Badgers, as Wisconsin went through two scoring droughts and managed only one modest run. Further, Virginia went 3-for-8 on threes while Wisconsin went 0-for-5 from deep. To make matters worse, Virginia shot 48.1% for the half thanks to multiple easy looks in the paint, while Wisconsin only mustered 36% shooting.
In predictable Wisconsin - Virginia fashion, both teams took their time to get on the board, as Virginia opened with a bucket by Salt 104 seconds after the tip.
Virginia played Happ aggressively early on the double-team, and Happ was able to find Iverson and Reuvers for easy baskets. However, Virginia’s defense would halt the Badgers offense the rest of the half, betting correctly that Wisconsin would not hit on open threes.
After a 4-4 tie with 16:25 remaining in the first, Virginia went off on a 9-0 run on a three by Kyle Guy and a series of layups by De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome. The run lasted until the 13:08 mark in the period when Happ scored a bucket.
After eight minutes of play, Virginia scored the bulk of its first half points in the paint with high-percentage looks, and Wisconsin struggled to get anything going offensively. Given the pace of thee game and a 15-6 deficit after eight minutes, Greg Gard sensed the game was slipping away and called a timeout.
With ten minutes to go, Wisconsin’s defense turned up the heat and forced a pair steals and easy baskets: a jumper by D’Mitrik Trice and a layup by Ethan Happ. Another Trice jumper whittled Virginia’s lead to 15-12.
Virginia fought back to take a 17-12 lead, and it had an opportunity to take a much bigger lead on a breakaway, but Happ blocked Braxton Key’s layup attempt to keep the deficit at five with 7:35 left in the half.
After trading a series of buckets—including Happ scooping a pair of pretty layups—Virginia strung together a pair of threes to expand the lead to 27-16 with 3:12 to go in the first. Virginia would continue the run en route to a 31-16 lead.
Wisconsin and Virginia would trade a few more buckets to close the half, but the damage was done for Bucky, which took a 33-18 deficit into the locker room.
The second half began with Wisconsin returning the favor a bit. Happ scored a quick bucket, Brad Davison hit a three, and Virginia went 3:07 without a bucket.
Kihei Clark ended the scoring drought for Virginia and re-established a 13 point lead for UVA with 16:53 remaining in the game. Wisconsin then went an another mini-run to cut the lead to seven thanks to a trio of high percentage baskets by Iverson and Happ.
Virginia pulled the lead to 40-31, before Kobe King hit his first three of the game. With 10:31 to play in the game, Virginia called a timeout and Wisconsin found itself only down six points in a very manageable game. With the lid off the basket (Badgers shot 53.8% in the first ten minutes of the second half), Wisconsin had hope for the first time since the score was 15-12 ten minutes into the game.
The lead stuck for Virginia, which expanded out to a 45-35 lead with 6:18 to go while Wisconsin’s shooting went ice cold for four minutes.
Like much of the second half, Wisconsin kept the game close enough to believe a comeback was possible, as Happ blocked a layup attempt by Salt and Iverson converted on a three point play.
With 4:17 to go, Wisconsin was still in striking distance down 47-40. Less than a minute later, Brad Davison stole the ball away from Salt and made a jumper from the free-throw line to pull the game within five points.
Wisconsin would never get closer than five, as the teams traded baskets until Virginia pulled away during foul time to a 53-46 victory over the Badgers.
Wisconsin will return home to take on another ACC team in NC State on Tuesday at 8pm in the Big Ten / ACC challenge.