Anemic first-half offense proves too much to overcome for Wisconsin in Battle for Atlantis title game

Ethan Happ scored a game-high 22 points and added a season-high 15 rebounds as Wisconsin fell to No. 4 Virginia.

Ethan Happ scored a game-high 22 points and added a season-high 15 rebounds as Wisconsin fell to No. 4 Virginia.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger and Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Last season, the Badgers went to Charlottesville to take on a top-ranked Virginia team. They left having scored only 37 points in a humbling loss to the Cavaliers. This year, an improved UW team took on UVA with a chance to win the Battle 4 Atlantis, hoping for some vengeance. While the Badgers were able to break 40 points on this occasion, they return to Madison with the end result unchanged.

De’Andre Hunter scored 20 points as No. 4 Virginia (0-0 ACC, 6-0 overall) toppled No. 25 Wisconsin (0-0 Big Ten, 5-1 overall) 53-46 to hand the Badgers their first loss of the year. Senior forward Ethan Happ scored 22 points and had a double-double for the Badgers, whose second-half rally came up short. No other UW player scored in double-digits. The Badgers never led and could find no consistent offensive spark outside of Happ for long stretches.

This game was expected to be a struggle; Virginia, like UW, likes to slow down the game and play tight defense. Just like last year, the Cavaliers proved superior at that game, and Wisconsin dug itself a hole out of which it never emerged.

The Badgers trailed 33-18 at the half as Happ scored 10 of their 18 points. Virginia went on a 7-0 run and a 10-0 run to effectively put the game away before the intermission. The second half started positively. Wisconsin went on a 16-7 run to cut the deficit to single-digits while holding Virginia to one of 12 shooting from the field to start the period. The Badgers got the lead down to five eventually but weren’t able to overcome their anemic first-half performance. Self-inflicted damage was key as they turned the ball over 13 times, including crucial giveaways in key moments.

After a frigid three-point shooting performance in the tournament opener against Stanford, the Badgers shot 14-22 in yesterday’s win against Oklahoma. Virginia was able to shut that down as the Badgers didn’t make a triple in the first half and finished two of 11 from beyond the arc on the day.

After a promising run and unsatisfying finish at the tournament, the Badgers will return to the mainland to take on North Carolina State in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. That matchup is Tuesday at the Kohl Center and tips off at 8 p.m. Central Time. They will then begin Big Ten play Friday at Iowa.

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