Wisconsin, ranked No. 2 in the country, captured the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis title, pulling away in the second half from Oklahoma en route to a 69-56 victory.
Two early fouls saddled Frank Kaminsky on the bench for the majority of the first half. The absence of their 7-foot All American didn’t stop the Badgers from heading into the locker room with a 34-33 halftime lead. With its starting five back on the floor to start the second, Wisconsin went on a 20-6 run to open up a double-digit lead. The Sooners would cut the lead to single digits, but never got it closer than nine.
Friday night’s Battle 4 Atlantis championship win shows just how difficult it is to beat an experienced, fundamentally-sound team like Wisconsin, which returns four starters from the Final Four team this season. Think about this for a second: Oklahoma is a trendy, darkhorse Final Four pick entering the season given the returners led by Buddy Hield and the addition of Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas. And, Wisconsin was without its star player for most of the first half, managed to keep the lead into halftime, and then quickly got out to a double-digit lead, which it almost held for the entire second half.
Foul trouble. Players struggling from the field. Those issues occurred during this three-game trip, and Wisconsin was able to respond with contributions from other players in Bo Ryan’s seven-man rotation. On Thursday, Wisconsin staved off Georgetown, 68-65, thanks in large part to the contributions of key reserves Bronson Koenig and Duje Dukan. With Kaminsky out with two fouls, Dukan against stepped up with 11 points in the first half with Traevon Jackson scoring seven points and dishing five assists.
Jackson led the ball movement with eight assists, tying a career high. Wisconsin assisted on 12 of 14 field goals in the first half and 19 of 27 for the game led by Jackson who tied a career-high with eight assists.
The unselfish passing led to another balanced scoring effort with five Badgers in double figures. Kaminsky scored 14 of his game-high 17 after halftime. That was followed by Jackson and Dukan with 13 points apiece, Sam Dekker with 11 and Nigel Hayes added 10.
Defensively, Wisconsin forced 21 turnovers, but more importantly limited Hield, the native of the Bahamas, to 2-of-11 shooting for nine points.
The Sooners have Missouri next Friday at home. Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule doesn’t get any easier after it left the loaded field unbeaten, as the Badges host No. 4 Duke and Jahlil Okafor in the marquee game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. EST.