Gaels Beat Oregon 62-50, Reach Maui Invitational Championship

LAS VEGAS — After posting an historic win over Notre Dame to open the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, the Saint Mary’s men’s basketball team used a strong defensive showing in the first half and strong shot selection in the second half to muscle its way past Oregon 62-50 and secure a spot in the championship game.

The Gaels turned in a quality effort the next day against Wisconsin in a back and forth final but the Badgers prevailed, 61-55. Saint Mary’s left Las Vegas with a 6-1 season record, the first time the Gaels have started with six-straight wins since the 2016-17 season.


At times, it felt like the Gaels were in complete control against Oregon, especially in the second half. After taking an eight-point lead into the break, they never fell below eight in the final 20 minutes, as the Gaels offense began to take over. Saint Mary’s immediately opened up an 8-2 run out of the chute, including a three-pointer and a layup from Tommy Kuhse. That gave SMC a 33-17 lead, and forced Oregon into a timeout. Oregon eventually chipped away and made it an eight-point game midway through the half, but the Saint Mary’s offense was too strong. SMC shot 59.3% from the field in the second half, and went 5-7 from distance, to seal the victory.


The Saint Mary’s defense was on another level in the first half against Oregon, and that helped give SMC the cushion it needed. Saint Mary’s held Oregon to just seven made baskets in the first half, which resulted in a 25.9% field goal percentage. The Ducks also turned the ball over seven times, and when it was added up, the Gaels held Oregon to just 15 points in the opening half. This marks the second time this season (six games) in which the Gaels have held a team to 16 points or fewer in the first 20 minutes of play.


So much of what makes Saint Mary’s successful is its ability to move the ball, and that was on display Tuesday night against the Ducks. The Gaels recorded 16 assists on 25 made shots, after failing to reach double-digits in assists in Monday’s win. Saint Mary’s is used to Kuhse racking up assists (7, 375 in his career), but Logan Johnson was dishing it around as well to the tune of five assists, tying a season-best. The Gaels have now recorded 13 or more assists in five of their six games this season.


Getting several players into double-digits is a good way to win, and the Gaels had four in double-figures…Dan Fotu again was the leading scorer with 16 points on 6-10 shooting…Kuhse (13), Ducas (12), and Johnson (11) were the others…Saint Mary’s forced Oregon to be erratic on Tuesday night, with 13 turnovers and just eight three-point attempts (2-8 for the game)…rarely do the Gaels run, but they had all 14 fast-break points on Tuesday night.

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