Wisconsin continued their rocky start to the non-conference season, falling to 4-3 after a 60-54 loss to Virginia (5-2) Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
The Cavaliers got a game-high 22 points from Joe Harris and answered every run the Badgers threw at them, holding off a few late surges.
We missed a lot of shots," said Junior Guard Ben Brust. "So the opportunities were there. It's a matter of knocking them down now."
For Wisconsin, it was their first home non-conference loss in the month of November since a 65-60 loss to Marquette at the Kohl Center on Nov. 14, 1997.
Wisconsin was led by Ben Brust with 15 points. However the junior guard was 6-16 shooting, but did have 11 of his 15 in the second half as the Badgers were trying to play from behind.
The Badgers went into halftime trailing 24-23. Wisconsin shot just 37 percent from the field, while allowing Virginia to shoot 45.5 percent. The Cavaliers also held a commanding 18-11 lead on the boards heading into the locker room.
"I thought we got some good looks," said Ryan. "If we just could have controlled the ball a little bit better when we were making our drives, I think we didn't fight through contact the way we need to, playing in a grind game like that."
Wisconsin was able to tie the game at 28 with 16:54 left in the second half on a jump shot from Traevon Jackson, who made his first career start Wednesday night. The Badgers would later take control, using a 6-0 run on back-to-back three-pointers from Brust and Sam Dekker to move ahead 36-31.
"Performance," Ryan said about why he started Jackson. "That's the way it should be in this world. He's stronger (than George Marshall) and in this type of game he's stronger with the ball."
The game featured five ties and six lead changes and as quickly as the Badgers got the lead, they would lose it even quicker. The Cavaliers responded with a 15-4 run of their own, going back on top 46-40 with just over seven minutes left to play.
Virginia was able to stretch the lead to seven with just under a minute to play, before Wisconsin made their final run. The Badgers got a put back slam from Jared Berggren to cut the lead to five.
Then Ryan Evans came up with a steal in the back court, which led to two more free throws from Berggren as the Badgers closed within three with 33 seconds left on the clock. The senior forward chipped in with 12 points Wednesday night.
After a Virginia free throw made it 58-54, Wisconsin fell victim to the smothering Cavalier defense, who forced Brust into a very deep, contested three-pointer, which fell way short.
"We've already addressed that," Ryan said of the last possession. "A guy like Ben has not had the ball in his hands a lot in an end game situation. Penetration there would have been great."
Wisconsin's schedule won't get any easier this week as the Badgers will host undefeated California (6-0) on Sunday.
"It's got to help us grow," said Berggren. "If we don't grow from this, it's going to be a long season."