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Wisconsin men’s basketball: UW beats Saint Mary’s for Maui Invitational championship

LFG! The Badgers win the Maui Invitational!!!!!

Wisconsin v St. Mary’s Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

After winning their first two games of the 2021 Maui Jim Maui Invitational, the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (5-1 overall) found themselves in the championship game of the tournament on Wednesday evening. Squaring off with an experienced Saint Mary’s Gaels (6-1 overall) team, the Badgers overcame another deficit to win a close game and secure the tournament crown.

In the first few minutes of the game, the two teams played relatively even. By the 11 minute mark of the first half, the two teams were all knotted up at 15 apiece.

The Badgers struggled to get much going on the offensive end outside of Johnny Davis, which allowed Saint Mary’s to snag a five-point advantage with 5:41 left on the clock.

A last-second layup would extend the Gaels lead to six at the half, after a choppy game dominated by whistles.

Saint Mary’s was able to add to their lead following the intermission. By the first media timeout, the Gael’s held an eight-point edge. A pair of buckets by Lorne Bowman II and a big three by Brad Davison gave the Badgers a much-needed jolt of energy as Wisconsin clawed back within two with 12-minutes remaining.

Saint Mary’s was able to maintain the two-point advantage over the next four minutes despite a scoring drought, but then Johnny Davis was able to get loose. The sophomore guard scored nine points in a row to give the Badgers a lead with four and a half minutes to play.

Ultimately Tyler Wahl and Johnny Davis would not relent, as Wisconsin was able to close out the Gaels for the tournament capturing win, 61-55.

Notable stat lines:

  • Jonathan Davis —> 20 points (7-of-17 from the floor), seven rebounds, one MVP
  • Tyler Wahl —> 18 points (6-of-9 from the floor), five rebounds, four blocks
  • Alex Ducas (Saint Mary’s)—> 13 points (4-of-9 from the floor), three rebounds

Three things that stood out:

No. 1: Fouls

This is not a fun subject to write about, but here we are. The first half was filled with plenty of foul calls, in fact, 18 in total. The half was played physically, but the Badgers were hit hard with three of their primary post threats in foul trouble. At the intermission, Steven Crowl, Chris Vogt, and Tyler Wahl all had two fouls. Saint Mary’s had their own foul trouble as well, with Kyle Bowen sitting a good chunk of the half with three fouls. The first handful of minutes of the game were fun to watch as the two teams went back and forth, but the final 10 minutes of the half were nearly unbearable as the stripes took over.

The second half flowed much better with the referees taking a back seat to the actual players early on, but then a flurry of offensive fouls came about to slow the game back down, and boom the refs regained control of the game. Overall, there were 40 total fouls in a really meaningful tournament game.

The officiating was brutal for both teams and it really took away from what was a really even matchup.

No. 2: Shots

Johnny Davis began the game scoring nine of Wisconsin’s first 11 points. Unfortunately, he was held scoreless for the rest of the first half.

Beyond that initial burst by Davis, the Badgers struggled on offense in the first half. As a team, they only shot 31% from the floor and failed to make a three-pointer in the first twenty minutes. Brad Davison specifically had a rough start, as he missed all five of his shot attempts in the first half.

The Badgers were able to find their stroke in the second half though, shooting 44% and converting at the free-throw line to swing momentum in their favor.

Wisconsin got good looks throughout the game, but they just weren’t falling for long stretches. The Badgers have done a great job of finding quality looks all season, and against Saint Mary’s it was no different. Like any team, there will be times where this team goes through shooting slumps, but with how hard Greg Gard’s bunch plays the Badgers appear to be able to weather those droughts better than in seasons past.

No. 3: No quit

In the opening game of the Maui Invitational, the Badgers had to rally from a large deficit. In the second contest, Wisconsin jumped out to a huge lead and was able to hold on for a narrow win. Against Saint Mary’s the game was pretty back and forth throughout, but Saint Mary’s did hold a big lead as the Badgers struggled to shoot at times.

One common thread across each of the games though was that they never let up, never got down, and never quit. For a young team that will undoubtedly go through their fair share of growing pains, their composure and ability to power through adversity was really impressive all tournament long.

Wisconsin came into Vegas as a team looking to make a run, and boy did they. This Badgers team was able to not only make it to the championship game but win the whole damn thing. What an impressive three-day stretch for Greg Gard and the Badgers.

Up next: The Badgers will be back in a week to take on Georgia Tech as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on December 1. Tip time is set for 8:15 p.m. CT in Atlanta. The game will be aired on ESPN2.