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Trophy Lockdown

Game Highlights

Tony Bennett's game strategy is the spiritual twin of Bill Parcells'.  Parcells' mantra was "don't beat yourself."  First and foremost, he was not going to beat himself.  Do not turn the ball over.  Offense was going to be conservative and physical, which in football terms means relying on the run.  He liked big linemen and big running backs (ironic that Joe Morris was one of the best backs he ever had), with big quarterbacks throwing to big receivers.  His defense was going to be aggressive and physical, taking away the run and forcing you to beat him through the air.  He might open it up and air it out early in the game to get a lead, but once he got the lead, he was going to lock it down, run the ball to run the clock, and rely on his defense to keep the other team from scoring.  With the defenses the Giants had in the 80s, it generally worked.

Tony Bennett's most important tenet is "don't beat yourself."  Do not turn the ball over.  The offense is going to be conservative and physical, which in basketball terms means relying on the halfcourt and a heavy emphasis on running off screens.  He likes big wings and husky big men, with big guards dumping it into the post.  His defense is going to be aggressive and physical, taking away the lane and forcing you to beat him from the outside.  He might experiment with different offensive sets early to grab the lead, but once he has the lead, he is going to lock it down, run the mover-blocker to death and rely on his defense to keep the other team from scoring.  With the defenses he has had, it generally works.

And that's the story of the Wisconsin game. A first half with mixed offensive sets and 33 points of offense got Virginia the lead, then Tony locked it down in the second half with a full dose of Sides offense using only his most trusted players, and counted on his defense to protect the lead.  And it worked.  It was an ugly second half for the Cavaliers and Wisconsin chopped the 15-point halftime lead down to a 7-point loss, but at no point was Virginia in real danger of losing.

From the moment De'Andre Hunter dropped in a layup to put Virginia up 9-4 five minutes into the first half, Wisconsin would get closer than that only once: at 8:14 of the first half when a rare D'Mitrik Trice jumper made it 15-12.  The Cavaliers responded to that with an 18-6 thrashing over the rest of the half culminated by Ty Jerome dropping in the halftime closer over Ethan Happ's outstretched fingers.

Like Dayton the day before, Wisconsin opened the scoring in the second half to tighten up the game, then spent the rest of the half gasping for breath as they swam against the current for survival.  Their struggle was aided by the Hoo Splash Brothers hurling shots at the ocean in a shooting performance reminiscent of the Tech game in JPJ last year, going a combined 4-17 from the floor (2-12 from the arc).  Happ was fantastic in this second half, with 12 points on 6-9 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks.  Unfortunately for Wisconsin, his two turnovers were killers, and Trice was unable to shake the Mong00se and put a g00se egg on the scoreboard.

The Badgers spent the first ten minutes of the second half chopping the Virginia lead down methodically, getting it to only 5 with 9:46 to play.  That was when Virginia's defense asserted itself and did not permit Wisconsin to score for over 4 minutes, at which point the Badgers found themselves staring at a 10-point deficit.  Hunter and Jerome had an answer for everything Wisconsin did the rest of the way.

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