- Associated Press - Saturday, December 7, 2013

ASHWAUBENON, Wis. — Tony Bennett shed tears at the start of his homecoming game.

But the fifth-year Virginia coach walked away from his return trip to Green Bay with good memories, despite his Cavaliers coming up short against his alma mater.

Led by a career-high 24 points from Greg Mays, Wisconsin-Green Bay pulled out a 75-72 win over Virginia on Saturday.

Brian Wardle called it the biggest home win for the Phoenix (5-2) in his fourth year as coach of the mid-major program, which knocked off one of the top teams in the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference.

“It means a lot for the team, for the program,” Green Bay junior guard Keifer Sykes said. “And to do it on this stage where Tony Bennett’s coming back, what he did for the university, and we’re playing a high-major team, an ACC team, it was just good to see all of the guys rise to the occasion.”

Sykes added 21 points, becoming the first Green Bay player since it went Division I in the 1981-82 season to score at least 20 points in six straight games.

Bennett helped put the Phoenix on the national map a decade later. The sharpshooting guard played for his father, Dick Bennett, at Green Bay from 1988-92, and the Phoenix made its first appearance in the NCAA tournament in 1991. Tony Bennett still holds the school record for career points (2,285) and assists (601).

Dick Bennett sat two rows up from the Virginia bench Saturday in Tony’s first game as a head coach in Green Bay.

The university marked the occasion with a video tribute on the scoreboard before the player introductions, and a big crowd of 6,491 then gave Tony Bennett a standing ovation for a couple minutes.

“That was special - it made my eyes water,” Bennett said. “That was very nice of those people, and I think Brian (Wardle) buttered me up so we’d start out like a bunch of softies like we did. But I’ll remember that for a while.”

The final result wasn’t what Bennett wanted, however, after his team made a late charge to erase a sizable Green Bay lead.

Sykes made two free throws for the Phoenix with 8.7 seconds left after Joe Harris missed a 3-pointer for Virginia. The Cavaliers (7-3) had a final chance to tie the score, but Justin Anderson missed a 3-point shot as the buzzer sounded.

Virginia fought back from a 13-point deficit early in the second half, tying the score at 69 on a 3-pointer from Malcolm Brogdon with 1:51 left. Brogdon led the Cavaliers with 17 points. Harris and Anthony Gill each added 12 points.

“Virginia is a very, very good team,” Wardle said. “We knew they were going to make that last push, a run. It was nice to have that cushion. I think having that little cushion of a 10-, 12-point lead was big because we knew that run was coming.”

Green Bay never lost the lead down the stretch after Brogdon’s score-tying 3.

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