No. 3 Kansas and Wisconsin will try to go undefeated and advance to the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis when they meet Thursday in the semifinals in Paradise Island, Bahamas.
The Jayhawks (5-0) clinch an 80-74 victory over North Carolina State on Wednesday, while the Badgers (4-0) withstood a late attack from Dayton to clinch a 43-42 win later in the day.
The winner will play in the title game Friday night against Southern California (4-1) or No. 22 Tennessee (3-1). The losers meet each other in the game for third place on Friday afternoon.
Kansas squandered an eight-point lead at halftime before finally securing victory 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-for-12 showing from 3-point range.
“Sometimes you take it for granted that when he’s going to shoot three, you think he’s going to make three,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who returned Wednesday from a four-game suspension imposed by the school. “So obviously that helped us.”
Kansas’ Jalen Wilson had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Kevin McCullar Jr. collected 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 helps him get seen nationally in a way he deserves to be seen.”
Wisconsin’s Max Klesmit blocked Kobe Elvis’ running one-handed jumper from just out of bounds with two seconds remaining to secure the Badgers’ victory.
Trailing 34-24 with 13:45 left in the game, the Flyers went on a 15-5 run to tie the game at 39 on Mustapha Amzil’s 3-pointer with 4:56 left. But the Badgers responded by scoring the next five points before Toumani Camara’s layup cut 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 left.
But Klesmit took the opportunity to whack Elvis’ last chance for the Flyers.
“I’m just proud of our guys how they keep finding a way,” said Wisconsin 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.”
Connor Essegian scored 13 points and Crowl scored seven of his nine points in the second half for the Badgers, who went 14-for-59 (23.7 percent) from the field, including 6-for-27 (22.2 percent) of 3-point range.
“The shots had to be better,” Gard 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.”