No. 3 Kansas and Wisconsin will look to remain undefeated and advance to the final of the Battle 4 Atlantis when they meet in the semifinals in Paradise Island, Bahamas, on Thursday.
The Jayhawks (5-0) are coming off an 80-74 win over North Carolina State on Wednesday, while the Badgers (4-0) withstood a late charge by Dayton to pull out a 43-42 victory later in the day.
The winner plays in the title game on Friday night against Southern California (4-1) or No. 22 Tennessee (3-1). The losers will meet in the third-place game on Friday afternoon.
Kansas squandered an eight-point halftime lead before finally securing the win over the Wolfpack.
The Jayhawks had four players score in double figures, led by Gradey Dick, who scored 25 points by going 7-for-17 from the floor, including an impressive 6-of-12 showing from 3-point range.
“You kind of take that for granted sometimes that when he goes to shoot three, you think he’s gonna make three,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who returned Wednesday from a four-game, school-imposed suspension. “So that’s obviously helped us.”
Kansas’ Jalen Wilson had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Kevin McCullar Jr. amassed 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Dajuan Harris Jr. added 14 points and six assists.
“He’s as good a winning guard as there is. I mean, the kid just makes plays,” Self said. “He’s a better shooter than he gets credit for. I hope this tournament kind of helps him be seen nationally in a way that he deserves to be seen.”
Wisconsin’s Max Klesmit blocked Kobe Elvis’ running one-handed jumper from just outside the lane with two seconds remaining to secure the Badgers’ win.
Trailing 34-24 with 13:45 left in the game, the Flyers went on a 15-5 run to tie the game at 39 following Mustapha Amzil’s 3-pointer with 4:56 to go. But the Badgers responded by scoring the next five points before Toumani Camara’s layup trimmed the lead to 43-41 with 2:57 left.
After Holmes split a pair of free throws to make it 43-42 with 59 seconds left, Dayton got the ball back when Camara blocked Steven Crowl’s layup attempt with 32 seconds remaining.
But Klesmit rose to the occasion to swat Elvis’ final chance for the Flyers.
“Just proud of our guys how they continue to find a way,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “It wasn’t always aesthetic as we wanted, specifically on the offensive end, but defensively this group is continuing to show and grow and develop some grit and toughness and making timely plays.”
Connor Essegian scored 13 points and Crowl scored seven of his nine points in the second half for the Badgers, who shot 14-for-59 (23.7 percent) from the field, including 6-for-27 (22.2 percent) from 3-point range.
“The shots needed to be better,” Gard said. “I thought when we did move the ball and played through the paint … we had good things happen. But we got a couple sequences in both halves where we took bad shots, which doesn’t allow you to set your defense.”
–Field Level Media