After rolling past Butler in the tournament opener, No. 12 Houston will face a tougher test against Wisconsin on Tuesday in the second round of the Maui Invitational at Las Vegas.
The Cougars (4-0) jumped to a 17-0 lead and rolled to a 70-52 victory over Butler on Monday. Wisconsin (3-1) overcame a 16-point, first-half deficit and rallied past Texas A&M, 69-58, in its first game.
The semifinal matchup will present a contrast in styles — Houston is averaging 74.8 points per game, while Wisconsin allows just 53.3.
Wisconsin trailed Texas A&M by 16 midway through the first half but rallied for a 35-34 lead at the break. The Badgers held Texas A&M scoreless for more than seven minutes during the comeback, forcing seven turnovers during that stretch.
“This group is learning as we go, and how they responded after the first 10 minutes or so, I’m proud of,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “But we’ve got to do a better job of not putting ourselves in that type of position.”
Wisconsin pushed the lead to 53-42 after intermission. The Badgers had a 15-5 advantage in second-chance points and outscored the Aggies 26-16 in the paint. Wisconsin also converted 16 turnovers into 22 points.
“Obviously (Texas A&M), came out hot, hit some 3s, but at the same time I didn’t really think we were doing things offensively that helped our defense,” Gard said. “Once we calmed down, we got settled in and played more to our identity, things started to turn a little bit.”
Johnny Davis had 21 points and nine rebounds and Brad Davison added 19 for the Badgers. Davis sat out Wisconsin’s 63-58 loss at home to Providence last week with an injured heel after scoring 15 points in each of the Badgers’ first two victories.
Houston also jumped to an early lead against Butler, but unlike Texas A&M, the Cougars didn’t allow their opponents to battle back.
The Cougars converted six early turnovers into nine points en route to a 41-20 halftime lead. Fabian White Jr. had a career-high 21 points and eight rebounds for the Cougars, who shot 50.9 percent from the field.
“I thought our first half, we were real sharp defensively,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Hitting shots that we work on in practice. Fabian knocked down some early 3s.”
Houston also outscored Butler 36-12 in the paint and harassed Butler into 20 turnovers, leading to 27 points. The Badgers might be a tougher team to crack, though, as they average just 9.3 turnovers per game.
“We won’t do anything with this game, won’t even look at it,” Sampson said of the short turnaround. “We’ll just move on and start getting ready for Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin and Houston have met twice, playing a home-and-home series in 1964 and 1965, with each team winning on its home floor. When Sampson coached Indiana for two seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08, the Badgers went 2-1 against his Hoosiers teams.
The winner will advance to Wednesday’s championship game. Oregon, Chaminade, St. Mary’s and Notre Dame are on the other side of the bracket.
–Field Level Media