Making their third-ever appearance in the Battle4Atlantis, Wisconsin (4-0) had never lost a quarterfinal game in the Bahamas. Needing everything they had a physical, fistfight against Atlantic 10 favorites Dayton (3-2), the Badgers relied heavily on their defense to advance to Thursday’s semifinals with a 43-42 victory.
Clinging to a one-point lead with 8.5 seconds to go, junior guard Max Klesmit blocked Flyers guard Kobe Elvis, putting the ball out of bounds with 2.0 seconds left. With only a few tenths of the second left on the shot clock, UD could not get a shot off following an inbounds play as UW escaped after nearly blowing a 10-point second half lead.
The Badgers were stumbling and treading water down the stretch, making just one of their last 17 field goal attempts. UW shot 23.7 percent (14-59) from the field and had just one player, freshman guard Connor Essegianin double figures with 13 points.
However, Essegian sat on the bench for the final 7:15 as head coach Greg Gard leaned on his defense.
UD would tie the game 39-39 with 4:56 remaining, but never took a lead in the second half. The Flyers shot just 30.2 percent (16-53) from the field and committed a whopping 17 turnovers.
Using a 7-0 run, all of which were scored or assisted by sophomore guard isaac lindsey, UW took a 23-14 lead into the halftime break. The Badgers clamped down on UD defensively, holding the Flyers to just 20.7 percent (6-29) shooting, including just eight points in the paint. UD’s 14 first half points were their lowest since 2016.
UW took that lead despite its starters shooting a combined 3-of-20 from the field. It was Essegian (11 points) and Lindsey (5 points, 1 assist), who kept the Badgers afloat offensively.
Taking a 10-point lead at 34-24 with 13:45 remaining, UW couldn’t put away the Flyers. Following a technical crowd on UD head coach Anthony Grantthe Flyers came roaring back, aided by some questionable shot selection from the Badgers.
After Elvis connected on a 3-pointer to tie the game at 39 with just under five minutes remaining, the Badgers used a quick 4-0 spurt, including a three-point play from senior forward Tyler Wahlhis only points of the game, to open a 43-39 lead with 3:17 left.
The Badgers would not score again following a free throw from junior center Steven Crowlwho finished with nine points, seven rebounds, and four assists, but it was enough distance between them and UD.
UW’s top three scorers Crowl, Wahl, and sophomore guard Chucky Hepburn went a combined 5-of-29 from the field.
UW improved to 2-0 all-time against the Flyers in what was the first meeting between the two programs since 1961. The Badgers will take on No. 3 Kansas (5-0) in Thursday’s semifinals.
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