For only the seventh time in the last 92 games that Wisconsin has played against a non-conference opponent at home, the Badgers left the floor at the Kohl Center on Wednesday night losers. After a 20 point, 5 rebound, 5 assist night from junior guard Joe Harris, UVa was a 60-54 victor in its ACC/Big 10 Challenge matchup.
In a game dominated by solid defense, Tony Bennett saw his squad put together an incredible defensive possessions on Wisconsin's final time with the ball. Down four, the Cavaliers refused to give the Badgers an even decent look at the basket. After a Ben Brust heave and a UVa rebound, Akil Mitchell sank two more free throws to ice the win.
"We played the way we wanted to," Bennett said immediately after the game, the first time Wisconsin has lost at home in November in 34 games under Bennett's former boss, Bo Ryan.
"I couldn't be prouder," an emotional Bennett added.
Virginia and Wisconsin traded runs in the first half, a 20-minute slugfest that left the Cavaliers with a 24-23 lead and saw Harris score 13, just two off his average per game.
In the second half, the Badgers got six-straight points to take a 36-33 lead with 12:28 left to play. Bennett called timeout and his team responded: After a Mitchell bucket and a 3-pointer from Evan Nolte the Wahoos had tied it up just one minute later.
From there, the Cavs continued on what ended up being a 15-4 run. Nolte sank two free throws, Harris hit a 3, and Teven Jones hit a floating runner to give Virginia the five-point lead with 8:50 left. Then Nolte hit another 3 going into the under-8 timeout with 7:27 remaining.
Darion Atkins, who had a career-high 14 points, scored back-t0-back buckets before Sam Dekker hit a 3 with 5:39 left.
Though UVa's late-game ball handling left a lot to be desired, the Cavs hung in. They got an old-fashioned three-point play from Harris with 3:15 left to lead by 8 and made five of six free throws down the stretch to hold on to the win.
"He was so tough minded," Bennett said of Harris.
UVa shot 45.7 percent in the win and forced Wisconsin into just 38.2-percent shooting from the field. The Cavaliers dominated on the boards, holding a 36-18 advantage over the Badgers.
Mitchell finished with 11 points and 10 boards while Nolte added 8 points and 3 rebounds.
The Cavaliers (5-2) return to Charlottesville this Saturday for a matchup against Green Bay.