Virginia was off to a strong start to the season until it found Wisconsin on the same floor.
The No. 24 Cavaliers look to pick up from the ruins on Wednesday when they face West Virginia in the consolation game of the Beach Division at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in Florida.
Virginia (4-1) played its toughest foe of the season Monday and it wasn’t pretty as Wisconsin notched an overpowering 65-41 victory that included an eye-opening 48-21 rebounding advantage.
The Badgers had a 20-3 edge on the offensive glass and never trailed in the one-sided contest.
“We were a little lackadaisical or behind the play and that hurt a lot,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said of the rout. “Of course, their offensive rebounding was significant. … To give up that many offensive rebounds was challenging.”
Virginia also struggled offensively with a season-low scoring output. The Cavaliers shot just 32.6 percent from the field.
The 65 points given up were the second most of the season and nearly double the amount the Cavaliers allowed in their previous game — a 62-33 win over Texas Southern.
“We lost our way defensively for sure,” Bennett said. “And we have to be a little better offensively, of course.”
Reece Beekman’s play was a bright spot for Virginia. He scored a season-high 17 points and matched a season best with seven assists.
But that wasn’t much consolation to the senior guard after the Badgers controlled the contest.
“I felt they ran their offense pretty well,” Beekman said of Wisconsin. “They took their time, were patient and made plays. They kind of wore us down.”
Beekman leads the Cavaliers in scoring (11.6 points per game) and assists (6.0).
Virginia will look to rebound against West Virginia (2-2), which lost 70-58 to SMU in its tournament opener on Monday.
The Mountaineers held an 11-point halftime lead but were outscored 45-22 in the second half by the Mustangs.
Depth-challenged West Virginia shot just 25.9 percent from the field in the second half while wilting. The Mountaineers used just seven players all game long and one of them (Pat Suemnick) played just eight minutes.
“I thought we had a pretty good first half,” Mountaineers coach Josh Eilert said. “We rebounded it well but to be honest, a lot of those shots they were taking were uncontested.
“They started falling for them in the second half and we weren’t good enough late in the game with a short bench to match their physicality and the way they run out and try to get easy points.”
Meanwhile, SMU shot 60 percent from the field in the second half while running West Virginia out of the gym.
“We really couldn’t get our defense set because we weren’t getting good looks,” Eilert said. “We were going to control this game on the offensive end by taking care of the ball and getting good shots to get our defense set.”
Jesse Edwards recorded 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots for the Mountaineers. He is averaging 15.3 points and leads West Virginia in rebounding (10.3 per game) and blocked shots (seven total).
Quinn Slazinski added 13 points for West Virginia as his team-best average lowered to 16.3. He has knocked down a team-best 11 3-pointers.
This will be the 20th meeting between the clubs in a series that began with the 1915-16 season. The Mountaineers lead 10-9 and prevailed in the most recent matchup, a 68-61 home victory on Dec. 5, 2017.
–Field Level Media