CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — Four minutes into Wednesday's Cancun Challenge championship game and Wisconsin's Sam Dekker had four points and four rebounds. After 12 minutes, he had eight rebounds and eight points, and the No. 10-ranked Badgers had just scored 18 unanswered points against West Virginia.
Dekker finished with a career-high 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Wisconsin beat the Mountaineers 70-63 to remain unbeaten and win the tournament championship.
"He hits some big threes," said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, whose team is off to its best start ever under his stewardship. "I think he's getting better and he hit some big shots for us. He got on the glass, he was pretty active."
With 15 assists, Wisconsin (7-0) played team ball — four players scored in double digits — while West Virginia (5-2) was led by Eron Harris, with a game-high 27 points and a career-high seven 3-pointers, and Juwan Staten, with 18 points.
"He was hunting it down," Ryan said of Harris. "The way he was shooting, it was like, 'holy smokes.' But I thought we forced him into giving it up a few times, more than maybe he was comfortable with."
Ben Brust scored 16 points for Wisconsin, Josh Gasser had 11, Frank Kaminsky had 10, and the Badgers made 16 of 17 free-throw attempts. Both teams scored 11 3-pointers and traded treys down the stretch.
It was a tight game in the first period until 11:03, when Gasser hit one of his two 3-pointers and sparked an 18-point run that ended with a slam dunk by Dekker, who had eight rebounds in the period.
Wisconsin got the ball inside to score 10 points in the paint in the first period, setting up shots with eight assists, while West Virginia was content to shoot from the perimeter and was only 6 of 20 from the floor in the first 12 minutes.
Dekker led with eight points in the period and Kaminsky scored seven, including a left-handed bank shot while double-teamed to make the score 25-13. Brust and Gasser each had eight points in the period.
Harris led West Virginia with 14 points and Juwan Staten had 12. Harris hit 4 of 9 3-pointers to keep the Mountaineers in contention and helped narrow Wisconsin's lead to six with 42 seconds to play in the period. After draining a 3 to stop the Wisconsin run and scoring the Mountaineers' first points in just over 5 minutes, Harris clapped his hands in an attempt to rally his team. But Wisconsin kept its lead, and Dekker sank two free throws to give the Badgers a 39-31 halftime lead.
Wisconsin maintained a seven-point lead in the second half, but West Virginia kept chipping away by going 3 for 3 beyond the arc. Remi Dibo made it a four-point game by hitting a 3-pointer at the 10:16 mark.
West Virginia began stepping up its intensity on defense and the game got more physical. The Mountaineers had a chance to make it a two-point game but Kevin Noreen turned the ball over on a bad pass in an alley-oop attempt to Dibo.
West Virginia began getting into foul trouble and put Wisconsin into the double bonus with 6:49 to play. Devon Williams and Kevin Noreen were benched with four fouls each, and Wisconsin took advantage of its free-throw attempts. Traevon Jackson hit two to make it 54-46 and Dekker made two to increase the Wisconsin lead to seven with 6:11 to go.
West Virginia had its chances but couldn't capitalize when it counted. They got a needed stop, but turned the ball over on a travel.
Harris made it a four-point game by hitting two free throws with 3:56 to play, but Wisconsin's Jackson replied with a pass inside to Kaminsky for a dunk to defeat the Mountaineers' zone and make it 61-55. Then Dekker hit a 3-pointer to make it a nine-point game.
Harris responded with a 3 of his own with 2:25 to play, but Dekker hit his third three of night to give Wisconsin a nine-point lead with under a minute to play.
Harris hit his seventh 3-pointer with 19.7 seconds to play, but Wisconsin's lead was too much to overcome.
Wisconsin made it to the finals by beating Bowling Green 88-64 on Thursday, Oral Roberts 76-67 on Saturday and Saint Louis 63-57 on Tuesday. West Virginia beat Georgia Southern 101-68 on Thursday, Presbyterian 88-55 on Saturday and Old Dominion 78-60 on Tuesday.