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Virginia earns Big Ten-style win at Wisconsin

The SportsXchange

MADISON, Wis. -- Virginia's appearance in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge felt like Big Ten conference play, as the Cavaliers overcame Wisconsin for a low-scoring win Wednesday night.

Junior guard Joe Harris led Virginia with 22 points in a 60-54 decision in front of a raucous 16,690 fans at the Kohl Center.

The Cavaliers (5-2) shot 45.7 percent from the field, and they held the Badgers (4-3) to 28.2 percent shooting.

Virginia has won four straight overall after a 1-2 start.

The victory moves the Cavaliers to 8-5 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and extends their winning streak in the event to three games.

"I know how difficult it is, and I have so much respect for this program and for what (Wisconsin coach Bo) Ryan has done," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "I really tried to prepare our guys that if they wanted any chance at this game, they would have to be so tough-minded and sustain their defensive possessions and be sound with the ball."

The Badgers, unable to find steady offensive production throughout the game, trailed by four points with 32 seconds remaining. However, stout defense from the Cavaliers prevented any shot attempts until junior guard Ben Brust forced up a weak, contested attempt. Two free throws from junior forward Akil Mitchell sealed the game for Virginia.

Mitchell led all players with 10 rebounds, and he added 11 points for his third double-double of the season.

"Well, I made the wrong play," Brust said of Wisconsin's poor possession at the end. "I was open right away and then just got caught in no man's land a couple of times. I should've attacked, got fouled or score to stop the clock."

Wisconsin fell to 6-8 in the Challenge all-time, including a 5-7 mark under Ryan.

Brust scored 11 second-half points to finish with a team-high 15 for the Badgers, while senior forward/center Jared Berggren wound up with 12 points after finishing the first half with just three.

"I thought we got some good looks," Ryan said. "I thought if we just could've just controlled the ball a little bit better when we were making our drives -- I think we didn't fight through contact the way you need to when you're playing in a grind game like that."

The Badgers managed to force the Cavaliers into 10 turnovers while having just five of their own, though an inability to reach the free-throw line limited Wisconsin's offense. Freshman forward Sam Dekker attempted Wisconsin's first free throws with 5:39 left in the game, nailing two to trim Virginia's lead to 50-45. Wisconsin finished the game just 4-for-5 from the line. Dekker finished with five points off the bench.

Sophomore forward Darion Atkins had 14 points, on 6-of-9 shooting, and seven rebounds for the Cavaliers. Virginia also held a sizable lead on the glass, pulling down 36 rebounds to Wisconsin's 25.

The Cavaliers held a 24-23 halftime lead, thanks in large part to 11 points from Harris.

"The way it worked out, there were so many opportunities where there were loose balls and it seemed like every time that we were close to getting a big stop, the ball would bounce off the rim, get tipped around and end up in their hands," Berggren said. "Those are just toughness plays that we didn't make tonight, and we've got to get a lot better at them going forward."

NOTES: Sophomore Traevon Jackson made his first career start for Wisconsin. He opened at point guard in place of redshirt freshman George Marshall, who entered at the 15:49 mark in the first half. Jackson scored five points. ... Dick Bennett, the father of Tony Bennett, coached Wisconsin from 1995 to 2001.
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