Unlike last year's B1G-ACC challenge game against Virginia in the Kohl Center, the Badgers did a much better job on Virginia seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, who last year combined for 33 points. One difference was the presence of Josh Gasser, who missed last season with a knee injury – his defense on Harris limited the preseason All-ACC first-team pick to shoot just 1 of 10 from the floor.
"He's a great player," Gasser said of Harris. "I just tried my best out there to not give him any easy looks and fight through screens ...Usually he makes a lot of those shots, but today he didn't."
Gasser was the main reason, who also led Wisconsin with 11 points in 35 minutes.
"He's so tough," said Ryan of Gasser.
Mitchell, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds in last year's game, struggled with foul trouble, picking up his third foul with 7:32 remaining in the half, causing Virginia coach Tony Bennett to keep him on the bench until the 13:36 mark in the second half. He ended this game with five points and three rebounds. Darion Atkins also struggled with foul trouble in the first half, being benched at the 10:56 mark.
Overall, the Badgers snagged 12 offensive rebounds, scoring 13 second chance points. Frank Kaminsky led the Badgers with 12 rebounds, 9 in the first half, equally split between offensive and defensive. Kaminsky also led the team at halftime with seven points. The team ended up with 40 rebounds to Virginia's 34.
The fact that Gasser was the only player in the game to reach double digits in scoring prompted Ryan to comment after the game that he didn't know of any other game during the shot clock and 3-point line era to only have a single double-digit scorer.
Overall, both teams shot poorly. The Badgers shot 28.8 percent from the floor, and 21.7 percent from three. Virginia shot just 11 of 47 from the floor, and 1 of 11 from three point range, including making just 5 of their last 37 shots from the floor, many of which were contested layups that could not find the bottom of the basket. The 38 points were the school's second lowest output since the shot clock era began in 1986, and the lowest scored at John Paul Jones Arena.
"I knew playing Wisconsin you are going to have to work to get stuff," said Bennett. "They are going to be patient. They were more patient tonight than I have seen them all year. Our defense was set and we made them work, but they are not going to beat themselves."
The Badgers struggled initially with three turnovers before the first media time out, although the team settled down and only finished with seven for the game. Virginia scored its first six baskets in the paint, including a layup from London Perrantes to take a 13-11 lead at the 13:08 mark, but the Cavaliers did not make another shot from the field until Mike Tobey hit a jumper from the paint nearly ten minutes later to staunch a 12-3 Badger run. Four Badgers free throws increased the lead to 25-20 at halftime.
After both teams struggled to score early in the second half, the lid came off the basket for the Badgers as their lead swelled to 34-23. Sam Dekker made a layup in transition, followed by a 3-point field goal by senior guard Ben Brust. Frank Kaminsky made a layup following an offensive rebound and Traevon Jackson scored on a layup as the shot-clock ran down.
During this time, Virginia encountered another drought from the field – not recording its first made field goal until the 11:17 mark. Tobey's jumper was answered by Brust's second three of the game to give the Badgers their largest lead of the night at 37-23.
Virginia tried to make a run, cutting the lead to 37-30, but the Badgers scored on back-to-back possessions to increase the margin to 12, starting with Brust driving around Harris for a layup.
"He's sneaky," Ryan said of Brust. "He is a scooter and he saw it open and they were covering so well. Ben certainly wasn't going to be able to get that pass off and he had to take it to the rim because everyone else was covered."
On the next possession, Gasser made his second three-point field goal of the game. UW didn't make another bucket the final 6:24, but Wisconsin made 6 of 12 free throws and held Virginia to only eight points the rest of the way.
Virginia did not make a field goal in the last 9:03 of the game, the third nine-plus minute drought of the game for the Cavaliers.
"Defense is what got it done for us tonight," said Ryan.