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What to know about Wisconsin men’s basketball’s Maui Invitational championship game against Saint Mary's
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What to know about Wisconsin men’s basketball’s Maui Invitational championship game against Saint Mary's

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The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team will play for the Maui Invitational championship.

The Badgers utilized a strong first-half performance to hang on and upset No. 12 Houston 65-63 in the semifinal round. Saint Mary’s defeated Oregon 62-50 to advance to the championship game.

The basics

What: Wisconsin (4-1) vs. Saint Mary’s (6-0)

When: 4 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas

TV: ESPN

Radio: 1310 AM and 101.5 FM, with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas

Last meeting: Saint Mary’s pulled out a 65-63 OT win at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in the 2019-20 season opener. Brad Davison had 16 points and four rebounds, while Tyler Wahl scored two points.

The teams

Wisconsin

Fast fact: The Badgers had lost eight consecutive regular-season games against teams ranked in the Top 25 before ending the streak with Tuesday's win over No. 12 Houston.

Coach: Greg Gard, 123-71 in his seventh season at UW

Probable starters: Steven Crowl, Johnny Davis, Brad Davison, Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl

Players to watch: Davis scored a career-high 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting against No. 12 Houston in Tuesday's semifinal. Wahl added nine points and a game-high seven rebounds.

Saint Mary’s

Fast fact: The Gaels finished fourth in the West Coast Conference after posting a 14-10 record overall and 4-3 mark in conference play last season.

Coach: Randy Bennett, 460-192 in his 21st season

Probable starters: Tommy Kuhse, Matthias Tass, Logan Johnson, Alex Ducas and Kyle Bowen

Player to watch: Saint Mary’s’ leading scorer, senior forward Dan Fotu, started all 24 games last season but averages 15.2 points off the bench this season.

Three things to know about the Gaels

An experienced roster

Saint Mary’s returns 12 players from last season’s roster, including last season leading scorer Johnson who averaged 13.3 points per game. There are only four new players on the Gaels’ roster. 

The team has four players averaging in at least 10 points per game — Fotu, Kuhse, Johnson and Ducas, who combine for an average of 47.2 points per game. Tass is right below with an average of 9.8 points per game. 

Forwards Ducas and Bowen both are international players who lead the Gaels with 5.2 and 7.7 rebounds per game respectively.

“They're on the older side now,” Bennett said. “They're juniors and seniors. We've just been through some wars, and you go through those wars and you either get tougher or you get beat, and our guys, they can talk to each other in a way that a lot of teams can't.”

Familiar faces

The Gaels and the Badgers played each other two years ago, but there only will be five players from that game on the court — Fotu, Tass, Bowen, Davison and Wahl.

Davison played 38 minutes and is the only player returning for Wednesday’s game who scored in double digits. Davison is averaging 15.2 points per game. 

“Davison is one of those guys you remember,” Bennett said. “That's the one guy I remember from that team. He's one of those stud leaders, and you could feel it when he's on the court.” 

Tass scored five points as a sophomore and Wahl scored two points as a freshman. Bowen and Fotu also were freshmen in that game but didn’t score.

Defensive minded

Both teams have a focus on defense, with the Badgers holding their opponents to an average of 55.5 points per game and the Gaels limiting theirs to 58.3. 

The Badgers are forcing an average of 13.6 turnovers, while Saint Mary’s opponents have averaged 13.3 while playing against them. Both teams average 6.8 steals per game, though the Gaels have played one more game than the Badgers.

“I think it's going to be a gritty, tough game with two really good defensive teams going at it,” Bennett said. “It's going to come down to, can you do the little things when it's in a pretty intense atmosphere against a pretty tough team.”


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