Harris leads Virginia to 60-54 win over Wisconsin
MILWAUKEE Visiting teams aren’t supposed to come into the Kohl Center and take the Badgers out of their game.
Then again, Virginia’s Tony Bennett is no ordinary visiting coach.
Returning to the school where his father coached more than a decade ago and he once served as an assistant, Bennett’s Cavaliers beat Wisconsin 60-54 on Wednesday in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
Bennett, who played collegiately at UW-Green Bay, said his time on the Wisconsin staff gave him the bug to coach.
“I really tried to prepare our guys if they wanted any chance in this game, they would have to be so tough minded, sustain their defensive possessions and be sound with the ball,” Bennett said.
For the most part, Virginia (5-2) took Wisconsin (4-3) out of its normal game with a tempo that resembled the grind-it-out style that Bennett’s father Dick employed while coaching the Badgers.
The Badgers averaged 19 free throws a game coming into Wednesday but didn’t take their first attempt until less than 6 minutes to go. Virginia also outrebounded the Badgers 36-25 and held them to 38 percent shooting from the field as Wisconsin scored almost 22 points below its season average.
Wisconsin also struggled from 3-point range, hitting 8 of 22.
The Badgers finally hit 3-point attempts on back-to-back possessions with 12:26 left to go that put them up 36-31, their first lead since midway through the first half. But Virginia scored on its next eight possessions to quickly retake control.
“Everything we built for went away,” said Wisconsin’s Ben Brust said. “There was an opportunity there.”
As Wisconsin made a final push at the Cavaliers, Joe Harris was intentionally fouled with less than a minute left, and he converted both free throws to put Virginia up 57-50.
Jared Berggren then slammed home a miss for Wisconsin, Virginia committed a turnover as the Badgers went to a full-court press and Berggren hit a pair of free throws to pull Wisconsin within 57-54 with 34.4 seconds left.
The Badgers then fouled Akil Mitchell in the full-court press. He converted the first but missed the second.
Down four points and needing to score quickly, Wisconsin struggled to get off a shot with Brust finally creating contact on a 3-point attempt with 5 seconds left. But no foul was called, and Mitchell then converted two free throws to ice the game.
Harris led Virginia with 22 points, while Darion Atkins scored 14, and Mitchell had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Brust led the Badgers with 15 points, while Berggren added 12.
Brust said he got caught in “no-man’s land” on the final Wisconsin possession and should have attacked, gotten fouled and stopped the clock.
Harris, meanwhile, said the Cavaliers knew they had to bear down on the Badgers to prevent them from getting an easy shot while avoiding any fouls.
“In terms of circumstances, it was one of the biggest defensive situations of my career,” Harris said. “To play defensive like that, I thought it was huge.”
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan started sophomore Traevon Jackson at point guard in place of George Marshall. It was the third starting lineup Wisconsin has used this season after featuring the same starting five for every game last season.
But the offense didn’t really flow under either. Jackson finished with five points on 2 of 7 shooting with five assists and one turnover, while Marshall scored three points to go along with one assist and one turnover.
Ryan, whose team lost just its sixth nonconference home game since he became coach in 2001, said his decision to start Jackson was a matter of performance.
“That’s the way it should be in this world,” he said. “He’s stronger, and in this type of game he’s stronger with the ball. He’s going to be OK.”