November 24, 2009

Previewing the Maui Invite semi-finals

Day one from the Maui Invitational is in the books and the semi-final round is set to take place as the evening progresses. For the four teams that advanced to the winner's side of the bracket, it took nothing but hard work and determination. Now, with a trip to the championship on the line, a little bit more of that work ethic will be needed for the following four teams.

But, before tonight's action takes place, BadgerBlitz.com takes a quick look back at the way Cincinnati, Maryland, Gonzaga and Wisconsin got to the second round.

SEMI-FINAL No. 1: CINCINNATI VS. MARYLAND:

How Cincinnati got there:

Vanderbilt entered the tournament as one of only two ranked teams. By the end of it, they likely will be on the outside looking in after the Bearcats handed them 67-58 loss. Following an early 18-2 run, 12 of which came from Yancy Gates, Cincinnati wasted no time asserting itself.

"He (Gates) imposed his will on the game," UC head coach Mick Cronin said following the opening round win. "I thought he imposed his physical will on the team. His aggression had an effect on his teammates. When he got it going like that, going after the ball off the glass, it fired his teammates up.

"It was like a shark feeding-since we're in Maui."

How Maryland got there:

Chaminade was the host school and had several fans in attendance that forced Maryland to recognize that. But a backcourt trio of Sean Mosley and Eric Hayes, who combined for 12-of-20 shooting and 31 points, quieted the hometown very quickly as the Terrapins beat the Silverswords 79-51.

Still, even though his team cruised to an opening round victory on a hostile court, Maryland head coach Gary Williams knows how difficult opening tournament games are.

"That first game is always tough in any tournament," Williams said. "This is like the ACC Tournament. You play three straight games there and you have to be able to do that in this situation."

SEMI-FINAL No. 2: GONZAGA VS. WISCONSIN:

How Gonzaga got there:

In the opening game of the tournament, the Bulldogs found themselves in an early home. As a team that retuned most of its starters, but having little success, Colorado really put it on Gonzaga in the opening half of the game.

In fact, the Buffaloes had put together an 11-point halftime lead on the heels of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins who combined for seven three pointers in the first half.

However, in the second half, Gonzaga's Steven Gray scored 27 points and Matt Bouldin added 21 more. That was enough for the Bulldogs to overcome the slow start and claim the 76-72 victory.

"As I told our guys after the game, anybody can continue to play well if you're a frontrunner and things are going great," Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. "The sign of a great competitor is if it's going bad and you can flip the switch at halftime and turn around. I think we had several players do that and as a team we did that.

"It makes you feel good as a coach because they really had to dig deep to get it out."

How Wisconsin got there:

In the nightcap, anyone that stayed up late to watch the first round finale was treated with a close final score, but a plethora of fouls. By the time the final buzzer sounded, play had been halted 54 times combined due to various infractions. Three players from Arizona fouled out and UW's dynamic big man Jon Leuer fouled out midway through the second half.

Early on, Wisconsin jumped out to a big lead as Arizona struggled to find its shooting touch. But as the game progressed, the Wildcats started clawing their way back into the contest and eventually took a lead with less than five minutes to play.

Down the stretch though, Trevon Hughes and Keaton Nankivil were just too much for Arizona as UW hung on for a 65-61 win.

"We got to get these guys to the pool," UW head coach Bo Ryan said following the game. "Not for a leisurely swim, just to cool down. We just happened to survive this one.

"That's a big step, especially in Maui and for all those people out East and the Midwest. They all had a chance to see you guys-all the insomniacs."

SEMI-FINAL PREDICTIONS:

-Maryland over Cincinnati (73-67)

-Wisconsin over Gonzaga (61-54)

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