Wisconsin relies on its defense to hold off Dayton in the Battle 4 Atlantis quarterfinals

Wisconsin Badgers guard Max Klesmit and Dayton Flyers guard Malachi Smith go for a loose ball during the first half at Imperial Arena.

Wisconsin Badgers guard Max Klesmit and Dayton Flyers guard Malachi Smith go for a loose ball during the first half at Imperial Arena.

Gray, not pretty.

How else would you describe Wisconsin’s 43-42 victory over Dayton in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas, on Wednesday?

UW missed the last six field goal attempts and 16 of the last 17, but prevailed because of his defense.

Max Klesmit had a critical block against Kobe Elvis with one second left on the shot clock and two seconds left in the game. The Flyers then got the ball in, but Elvis couldn’t get the corner jumper off before the shot clock expired.

UW’s Tyler Wahl went long to Klesmit, who went high for the catch and time passed.

“I’m just proud of our guys how they keep finding a way,” said UW coach Greg Gard. “It wasn’t always aesthetically the way we wanted, especially on the offensive side, but defensively this group continues to show and grow and develop some persistence and toughness and play in a timely manner.”

Wisconsin will advance to Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis Semifinals

The Badgers (4-0), despite only shooting 23.7%, advance to No. 3 Kansas (5-0) at 10am on Thursday.

BOX SCORE: Wisconsin 43, Dayton 42

Kansas got 76 points and 32 rebounds from the top five in an 80–74 victory over North Carolina State in the first game of the tournament.

UW was victorious despite taking only 19 points from the first five.

Steven Crowl had nine points, seven rebounds and four assists to lead the starters. Klesmit added three points and five rebounds. Jordan Davis had two points and eight rebounds.

Dayton forward Zimi Nwokeji defends Wisconsin forward Steven Crowl during the first half at Imperial Arena.

Dayton forward Zimi Nwokeji defends Wisconsin forward Steven Crowl during the first half at Imperial Arena.

Wahl (three points) and Chucky Hepburn (two points) combined on only 2 of 18 shots.

Connor Essegian led UW with 13 points, 11 of them in the first half.

“I just want to come in and bring that spark the team needs,” said Essegian.

Fellow reserves Markus Ilver scored six runs and Isaac Lindsey added five. Together they hit 3 of 6 3-pointers.

“Guys like Markus Ilver and Isaac Lindsey come in and hit big threes to keep us in the game,” said Klesmit. “It’s just a tribute to those guys who come in and work every day.”

Essegian and Lindsey help Badgers overcome cold shooting in the first half

Badger Guard Connor Essegian (3) celebrates with teammates after the game against the Dayton Flyers.

Badger Guard Connor Essegian (3) celebrates with teammates after the game against the Dayton Flyers.

Gard was not happy with his team’s shot selection, which contributed to UW hitting only 6 of 27 three-pointers (22.2%) and 14 of 59 total shots (23.7%).

“The shots had to be better,” he said. “I thought when we moved the ball and played through the paint… good things happened. But we got a few sequences in both halves where we made bad shots, so you can’t set up your defense properly.”

Elvis scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to help the Flyers (3-2) trail 34-24.

The UW starters combined to only score seven points on 3-for-20 shooting in the first half, but the Badgers managed to work out a 23-14 lead, thanks in large part to Essegian and Lindsey.

Essegian hit 2 of 3 three-pointers, 3 of 5 total shots, and three free throws on a foul on a three-point attempt for 11 points in 11 minutes.

Lindsey played in place of Hepburn for four minutes in the first half and contributed five points, one rebound and one assist.

UW led 16-14 when Lindsey scored on a lay-in on a feed from Crowl. Lindsey then fed Crowl for a basket and hit a three-pointer that came out of a timeout to end a 7-0 run and give UW a 23-14 halftime lead.

Dayton went scoreless over the final 5:02, finishing the half 2 of 16 from three-point range and 6 of 29 overall.

The Badgers built the nine-point lead by winning the battle for repechage points (6-0) and points from turnovers (8-2). They finished the game with a 13-4 lead in rematch points and an 8-7 lead in points on turnovers.

UW started with quick shots in the second half

UW had a 34–24 lead after Crowl scored in with 13:45 left in the game, but with both Hepburn and Wahl in deep trouble and on the bench, the Badgers began rushing shots.

The Flyers took advantage and got 10 points from Elvis to pull inside 37-36 with 7:45 left and finally tied in a 39-39 tie on a three-pointer by Mustapha Amzil with 4:56 left.

Wahl, scoreless up to that point, then scored on a post-up move and was fouled with 4:38 left. He hit the free throw for a 42-39 lead.

Crowl took a feed from Wahl and fouled the shot with 3:17 left. He hit 1 of 2 shots for a 43-39 lead.

The Flyers got a put-back and DaRon Holmes was fouled with 59.7 seconds left. Holmes hit 1 of 2 tries to pull Dayton in 43-42.

UW had the ball but had made only 1 of his last 16 field goal attempts. Who would get the shot on the critical possession?

Crowl got the ball near the rim, but his shot was stuffed and the Flyers called a timeout with 24.4 seconds left, 23 on the shot clock.

Unable to get a clean look, the Flyers called another timeout, with seven seconds left on the shot clock and 8.5 left in the game.

UW’s defense, which limited Dayton to 30.2% shooting (16 of 53), held on one last time.

“We were trying to get Elvis on the ride downhill,” said Dayton coach Anthony Grant. “He was successful in getting to the edge.

“We were hoping for a basketball opportunity or a foul.”

The badgers survived and advanced.

“I knew they like to let their guards go to their strong hand,” said Klesmit, who cleverly blocked the shot with his left hand to avoid offense. “I tried to sit on that as best I could and defend without making any mistakes.”

Hepburn and Wahl combined for only 4 of 25 shots in a win over UW-Green Bay and combined for only 2 of 18 shots against Dayton.

That UW prevailed on Wednesday despite such numbers was remarkable.

“It’s two all-league players that helped us win a lot of games in Wisconsin,” said Gard. “So I’m going to continue playing with those guys.

“Fortunately they had teammates who came forward and helped them.”

Especially on the defensive side.

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This article originally appeared in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Badgers struggle to score but beat Dayton in Battle 4 Atlantis

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