November 27, 2014

Wisconsin battled its way to the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, and claiming that crown will likely require a similar effort against Oklahoma.

The second-ranked Badgers will try to solve the Sooners' strong defense as they meet Friday in the Bahamas.

Wisconsin (6-0) won its first five games by an average of 30.4 points while hitting 52.4 percent from the floor. While making 48.8 percent from the field would be a strong showing for most teams, it was a season low for the Badgers as they edged Georgetown 68-65 on Thursday after D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera's 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.

It was also a physical semifinal with a combined 39 fouls, with Wisconsin accounting for a season-high 17.

"I have bruises, and I was watching," coach Bo Ryan said. "That's how hard we were playing each other."

That encounter should have the Badgers ready for another potential defensive struggle against Oklahoma (4-1), which reached the title game of this tournament on the heels of its best defensive performance in 11 years.

The Sooners beat Butler 59-46, holding the Bulldogs to 4 for 23 from beyond the arc and 23.7 percent from the floor. It was the lowest shooting percentage by an Oklahoma opponent since Arkansas-Pine Bluff went 9 for 44 (20.5 percent) on Dec. 2, 2003.

"Our guys' awareness defensively was as good as it's been all year," coach Lon Kruger said. "We really had five guys working together, which is what you're supposed to do on the defensive end."

Kruger should be pleased with Oklahoma's defensive effort so far this season, permitting 33.6 percent from the field - 22.2 from 3-point range - while limiting foes to an average of 59.4 points.

Offensively, however, the Sooners have struggled to get going, hitting 40.3 percent of their field goals after sinking 44.7 last season. While they managed to hit 45.5 percent Thursday, they were a woeful 2 for 17 from behind the arc.

Finding a balanced shooting effort could deliver Oklahoma its first Battle 4 Atlantis championship and solidify its chances at returning to the Top 25. The Sooners already upset No. 22 UCLA 75-65 in the first round Tuesday.

"That's what we came here for. That was our goal," said guard Isaiah Cousins, who had a team-high 13 points and eight rebounds Thursday. "We're striving for greatness."

Buddy Hield, the team leader with 18.2 points per game, will try to bounce back from his season-low five points against the Bulldogs as he made just 2 of 10 from the floor - 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. The junior guard and native of Freeport, Bahamas, scored 24 versus the Bruins despite missing 9 of 13 3s.

Wisconsin's top scorer Frank Kaminsky is also looking to show improvement. The senior forward is averaging 16.5 points, but had a season-low six as he went 1 for 8 from the field and 0 for 4 from 3-point range.

He had averaged 20.7 points over the previous three games.

The Badgers and Sooners have split six all-time meetings, but haven't met since a Wisconsin victory on Nov. 29, 1997.

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