All preseason and through its first six games, Wisconsin never worked on end-game tie situations until Monday morning. It paid off big only hours later.
Trevon Hughes drove the length of the court and hit a leaning floater in the lane with 0.9 seconds to play, allowing the Badgers to survive a furious comeback by Virginia Tech and beat the Hokies 74-72 in the opener of the 10th Annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
The Badgers (6-1) did it just the way coach Bo Ryan drew it up, quickly inbounding the ball to Hughes without calling timeout and letting the ball-handling guard do the rest.
Hughes thought the strategy worked, catching the Hokies off guard.
"They were discombobulated once the ball came in because they didn't know what to do," he said. "They didn't know whether they wanted to press us or fall back and let us get up a shot. They were out of sync so I just ran down the court and got a good look."
The ball seemed to hang in the air a long time, and an arena that was cheering wildly seconds earlier grew silent as the shot bounced once on the rim, then fell through.
"It took forever," a smiling Hughes said. "It was like in slow motion."
And it left the Hokies (4-3) with a familiar feeling. They lost 63-62 in overtime to Xavier earlier this month in Puerto Rico on Dante Jackson's heave from beyond half court.
"We didn't want to foul because the game was tied so we kind of laid off a little bit, and the guy hit that shot," said A.D. Vassallo, whose sixth 3-pointer with seven seconds left had pulled Virginia Tech even for the first time in the second half. "It's one of those things that the ball easily could have went in and out and we could have had like two seconds left.
"But it just happened to go in and we lost by one again."
Marcus Landry scored 18 points and Jon Leuer had 17 for the Badgers, who finished 12-for-18 from 3-point range. Hughes added 12 and Jason Bohannon 11, all in the second half.
Joe Krabbenhoft, who hit 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute to account for most of the Badgers points in a 14-5 run by the Hokies, said it was the kind of victory all teams need.
"It can mean a lot come March when you get these wins on the road," he said.
Especially, Ryan said, with a young team that is still learning to play. He said he was grateful the Hokies never got the lead, especially with how loud Cassell Coliseum became.
"How would our young guys react to that?" he said. "I didn't want to find out."
Vassallo led the Hokies with a career-best 30 points, getting 24 in the second half, and freshman Victor Davila had 13. Malcolm Delaney added 12 and six assists, but Jeff Allen, the Hokies' leading scorer, played just 15 minutes and fouled out with just two points.
The Hokies trailed by as many as 12 in the second half, and were behind 67-58 when Delaney and then Dorenzo Hudson hit 3-pointers, making it 67-64 with 36 seconds to play.
After Krabbenhoft hit 1 of 2 free throws, Delaney hit 2 of 3 with 29.3 to go. Krabbenhoft then hit a pair, but Vassallo hit a 3 with 17.9 left. Jason Bohannon's two free throws with 11.6 to go made it 72-69, and Vassallo hit a fallaway 3 to tie it with 7 seconds left.