Bo Ryan vs. Tony Bennett. Everyone knew that this was going to be a low scoring game, but I doubt that there were any predictions with one team failing to reach 40 points. Wisconsin has made noise this season behind an explosive offense, unlike Bo Ryan's teams in the past, but it was the defense today that shut down Virginia and moved Wisconsin to 9-0 and gave Coach Ryan his 300th career win at Wisconsin.
Josh Gasser led all scorers with 11 points, and was the only player to score in double figures, shooting two for two from the floor (both 3-pointers) and making five of six free throws. However, Gasser's biggest contribution was on defense, as he held Joe Harris to just two points, making only one of his ten attempts from the field.
The start of the game was back and forth, as Virginia jumped to an early 6-2 lead behind a raucous home crowd. The Badgers answered, and the first 12 minutes or so were fairly even. Wisconsin went on a 10-5 run to end the half up 25-20, and from there it was pretty much all Badgers, as they dominated and frustrated the Cavaliers defensively.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Virginia has had 10 consecutive empty possessions dating to the first half.</p>— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) <a href="https://twitter.com/JimPolzinWSJ/statuses/408402638703583232">December 5, 2013</a></blockquote>
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The Cavaliers did make surges to come back on Wisconsin, as they were down by only six points with 1:40 to play, but they would not score again after that point.
The Badgers plainly outworked and outmuscled Virginia, in a way similar to what the Cavaliers were able to do in Madison last season, producing a 60-54 victory. Virginia coach Tony Bennett said, "I think Wisconsin did to us, in a way, what we did to them last year, Last year we outlasted them a little bit. When it mattered, they were sounder, more poised and made plays."
Wisconsin won the rebound battle 40-34, including 6 offensive boards by Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky finished with 9 points and 12 rebounds.
This game seems to be a microcosm of Wisconsin's development since last year, working hard in all aspects of the game and finishing strong. Frank Kaminsky believes so, saying, "We didn't give them any easy buckets like we did last year, and down the stretch, we closed out the game. Last year, we had our chances to win and we just didn't do the things necessary to win the game."
Joe Harris, the Cavaliers' leading scorer, was contended on many of his shots, and simply wasn't able to knock down anything that was open. Much of the credit goes to Gasser, and the team defense as a whole. On Harris, Gasser said, "I was just trying to do my job out there, not give him any easy looks, just trying to chase over every screen - they set a lot of screens for him. It was a lot of work, but it was definitely a team effort on him." When your leading scorer shoots 1-10, it's going to be a long night. His numbers reflect the success of the entire team, as they shot 23.4 percent, good for the fourth lowest total in school history.
It seems fitting that Bo Ryan would reach his 300th career win at Wisconsin in a game like this. It was sloppy and boring to watch, but Ryan's team stayed determined and fundamental, as they were able to outwork past a tough Virginia team. If the Badgers are able to get back to their hot shooting and faster paced offense, while maintaining this stifling team defense, they are going to be a serious force come Big Ten play.
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