CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Wisconsin’s high-scoring offense has garnered much of the attention during the school’s best start in 20 years.
It was the Badgers’ defense that did the hard work Wednesday night in a 48-38 victory against Virginia.
“I’m glad we won like this,” Josh Gasser said. “It’s about time we played that way defensively.”
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Gasser led all scorers with 11 points and Wisconsin limited Virginia to its lowest point total since a 77-36 loss to Connecticut on Nov. 29, 1993. The Cavaliers shot just 23 percent (11 of 47) and went 1 for 11 on 3-pointers.
And while Virginia’s nationally ranked defense kept Wisconsin well off its 76.8-point average, the Badgers’ defense and Virginia’s inability to convert on offense made it an ugly game.
“It was so hard to get good looks, and even when you did get good looks, they were hurried,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said after earning his 300th victory with the Badgers. “That was two teams just really beating people to positions, rotating, making it difficult to get easy baskets. There weren’t a lot of easy baskets in that game.”
The game was a rematch from last year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, when Virginia won 60-54 in Madison, Wis., behind 22 points from Joe Harris. This time, Gasser had a big hand in keeping the Cavaliers’ leading scorer quiet.
Harris finished 1 for 10 from the field, including 0 of 4 from 3-point territory, and scored just two points.
“I was trying to do my job out there, not give him any easy looks,” Gasser said while also crediting solid team defense. “He’s just a great player and fortunately, he wasn’t hitting them.”
The Badgers (9-0) extended their best start since opening 11-0 in 1993-94 despite shooting 29 percent (15 for 52). During one stretch of nearly 22 minutes spanning the halves, the Cavaliers managed just three field goals while falling behind 37-23.
London Perrantes led Virginia (7-2) with eight points and Mike Tobey had seven.
The Cavaliers tried to make a run by speeding up the slow pace midway through the second half, but came up well short.
“We have some warts, as every team does, and when all the guys go cold at once, it’s hard,” coach Tony Bennett said.
“There was nobody.”
Malcolm Brogdon went 1 for 7 from the field and Anthony Gill was 1 for 3. The Cavaliers’ starting five finished 7 for 31.
With the Cavaliers trailing 43-36, Harris grabbed a ball out of the hands of Frank Kaminsky and charged down court, but was called for a charge while making an aggressive move to the basket. On the next possession, the Cavaliers missed three shots from within 3 feet.
“Some of those shots that they missed, they’re going to make.” Ryan said. “Maybe the law of averages caught up with them because they’ve been shooting it so well.”
Wisconsin used a 10-5 run over the last 7 minutes of the first half to lead 25-20 at the break.
The Badgers also scored the first five points of the second half as Virginia’s string of missed shots stretched to 13. After Dario Atkins hit a free throw for the Cavaliers 4:23 into the second half, a putback by Kaminsky and a drive by Traevon Jackson pushed Wisconsin’s lead to 34-21, and Virginia took a timeout.
The Cavaliers scored seven straight points, energizing the crowd as they closed to 37-30 on Akil Mitchell’s free throw with 8:08 to play, but Ben Brust scored on a drive and Gasser’s 3-pointer made it 42-30.
The Cavaliers got to 44-38 with 1:40 left, but never scored again.
The Badgers shot 8 of 25 (32 percent) and Virginia went 8 of 27 (29.6 percent) in the half.
Harris, who was averaging 12.4 points per game, was 1 for 6 from the field. Gill (10.4 points per game), the Cavaliers’ No. 3 scorer, played just 9 minutes for defensive reasons.