Wisconsin attempts to follow up its most impressive victory of the young season with another dynamic triumph.
The Badgers (3-2) overpowered No. 24 Virginia in their tournament opener and now face SMU on Wednesday in the championship game of the Beach Division at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Florida.
Wisconsin dominated the boards in its 65-41 win over the Cavaliers. SMU (4-1) reached the title game with a strong second-half comeback for a 70-58 victory over West Virginia.
The Badgers never trailed against Virginia and had a 48-21 rebounding advantage. The carnage included a 20-3 edge on the offensive glass over coach Tony Bennett’s squad.
“Obviously, I’m extremely happy for our players,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “We have tremendous respect for what Tony has done.”
Virginia pulled within 40-35 with 12:54 left in the game before the Badgers delivered the knockout punch with 11 consecutive points.
“I think for us, the thing was to be more physical,” said Wisconsin’s Steven Crowl, who had 15 points and a season-high 10 rebounds. “The coaches did a great job with us on that. We showed that (Monday night). This is the first step.”
Backup John Blackwell with 10 points was the only other player to reach double digits for the Badgers.
AJ Storr leads the balanced Wisconsin attack with a 13.8 scoring average. Crowl is second at 11.6 and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds.
Also scoring in double figures for the Badgers are Chucky Hepburn (10.8), Tyler Wahl (10.2) and Blackwell (10.2).
SMU trailed 36-25 at halftime against West Virginia before shooting 60 percent from the field in the second half and limiting the Mountaineers to 25.9 percent.
Ricardo Wright made four second-half 3-pointers for 12 crucial points. That matched his career high for treys in a game.
Wright’s performance came after he played just two minutes in a loss to then-No. 13 Texas A&M on Nov. 14.
“I was proud of him,” Mustangs coach Rob Lanier said. “I admitted to him that I should have played him more in the A&M game, and I should have because he had been doing what I had asked him to do.”
Zhuric Phelps recorded 17 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for SMU. Chuck Harris also scored 12 points.
Phelps leads the Mustangs with a 14.2 scoring average. Harris averages 13.8 and has made a team-high 10 3-pointers.
The teams are meeting for the first time since SMU edged the host Badgers 66-64 on Dec. 3, 1991.
–Field Level Media
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