Las Vegas, NV – The Maui Invitational was moved to Asheville, NC last season due to the COVID pandemic. This year the event got a bit closer to Hawaii as it is taking place in Las Vegas. The afternoon session today consisted of games between Wisconsin and Texas A&M, then Houston vs. Butler. In the evening Oregon faces Chaminade, followed by Notre Dame vs. St. Mary’s.
In the opening contest Wisconsin played a strong second half in defeating Texas A&M 69-58. Texas A&M got off to a quick 26-10 lead before the Badgers came back. Helped by two three-pointers from Jonathan Davis and one by Brad Davison the Badgers ran off 15 straight points to take a 35-33 lead. They led by one at the half. Wisconsin continued their improved play into the second half, extending their lead to 11, then to 16 midway through the half. The Aggies didn’t seriously mount a challenge after that. Davis led the Badgers with 21 points (8-of-18 from the field) and nine rebounds. Davison didn’t have his best shooting game (5-of-16), 3-of-11 on 3s but added 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Quenton Jackson led the Aggies with 15 points on 3-of-6 from deep. Wisconsin turned their height advantage into a 26-16 edge in points in the paint and a 32-26 rebounding edge.
In the second game Houston set the tone in scoring the first 17 points of the game and didn’t look back in a 70-52 win over Butler. The Cougars played great team defense and showed excellent passing skills. 6-8 Fabian White Jr. led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds. Houston forced Butler into 20 turnovers while committing only ten. Jair Bolden led the Bulldogs with 16 points.
Bolden was the only Bulldog to score in the first 12.5 minutes of the game. He had 14 of Butler’s 20 first half points as Houston took a 21-point lead into the break. Houston shot 54.8 percent and held Butler to 35 percent shooting. They only committed three turnovers while forcing 11. White led the Cougars at the half with 15 points, connecting on 3-of-5 from deep.
Oregon started off their game against Chaminade in an extension of their offensive slump that appeared against BYU. They did play good defense though. The first half was a slog with the Ducks taking a 29-22 lead into the break. Oregon shot only 29.7 percent from the field, including 4-of-19 on 3s. They did hold the Silver Swords to 24.1 percent shooting. The second half was better for Oregon as they showed more offensive continuity combined with defensive pressure. They scored 24 points in the first ten minutes of the half and gradually expanded their lead to over 20 points. At that time Coach Altman began substituting freely, giving the starters some rest before they play two more games in the next two nights. Oregon shot 61.3 percent (19-of-31) in the second half.
The Ducks used their big men more tonight and they were all generally effective. Franck Kepnang was the first big off the bench. He played 14 minutes, scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds and had a block. N’Faly Dante looked strong in his 12 minutes, also scoring eight points (3-of-3 FG) with two rebounds and a block. The two freshman, Issac Johnson and Nate Bittle also saw action. Johnson scored eight points, making his four field goal attempts with two rebounds in nine minutes. Bittle scored one point, to go along with three rebounds and a block in ten minutes. The quartet combined to score 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds and three blocks in 45 minutes of action. Eric Williams Jr. led the Ducks in scoring with 14 points and De’Vion Harmon added 13. Oregon had 19 assists against ten turnovers, a big improvement from their last game.
Oregon will go on to face St. Mary’s (5-0) as the Gaels edged Notre Dame (2-1) 62-59 as Daniel Fotu scored a career high 22 points in 22 minutes of play. Fotu hit the biggest shot of the game, a three-pointer that put St. Mary’s on top by two points with 45 seconds remaining. The Irish had a chance to tie the game with seven seconds remaining but Cormac Ryan missed the back end of a 1-and-1. Tommy Kuhse (14 points) then made the deciding free throws for St. Mary’s. The game was close throughout with 16 lead changes.
Fotu connected on 8-of-9 of his shots from the field including making all three of his three-pointers. St. Mary’s shot slightly better than Notre Dame (48 to 38 percent overall, 53 to 33 percent on 3s). They also had a 32-25 rebounding edge. That offset their committing 13 turnovers to Note Dame’s eight.
The tournament continues with Butler and Texas A&M facing off in a consolation game. That will be followed by winner’s bracket games between Houston and Wisconsin, then Oregon vs. St. Mary’s. A consolation game between Chaminade and Notre Dame will close out the day.