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Unbeaten Saint Mary’s faces off with Washington in Wooden final

Unbeaten Saint Mary’s faces off with Washington in Wooden final thumbnail

Saint Mary’s aims to keep its perfect record intact when it opposes Washington on Thursday night in the championship game of the Wooden Legacy at Anaheim, Calif.

The Gaels (6-0) reached the title game with a 75-65 victory over Vanderbilt on Wednesday night. Washington (4-1) advanced with a 62-57 triumph over Fresno State.

Logan Johnson had a solid all-around game for Saint Mary’s with 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

“He was really good,” Gaels associate head coach Mickey McConnell said of Johnson on the school’s postgame radio show. “Early on, he got us going. … He was huge for us. He’s grown so much as a playmaker. It’s a nice weapon for us.”

Aidan Mahaney scored 20 points and Mitchell Saxen added 19 to form a stellar scoring trio with Johnson.

The 20-point outing was the second of the season for Mahaney, a freshman who is quickly forming a bond with Johnson.

“He’s an elite leader and I think that speaks more than any stat number he can put up,” Mahaney said on the radio network.

As for Washington, its tight defense forced 21 turnovers, which was crucial as the Huskies shot 37.9 percent from the field.

“Winning is hard in college basketball,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said afterward. “I felt like tonight was a great stepping stone. We took a step up in the sense that we didn’t play great offensively. When you shoot 37 percent from the field and 21 percent from three, you have to play great defense.

“We just learned how to win against a really good coach (Justin Hutson), a really good program and a really good team.”

Washington’s Keion Brooks Jr. scored 16 points and had three blocked shots but made just 4 of 15 field-goal attempts. Brooks is just 8 of 27 in two games since returning from a two-game absence caused by a leg injury.

“If you look at it statistically, he’ll have better days because we know how good of an offensive player he is,” Hopkins said. “But he stepped up and played unbelievable on the defensive end. The one thing about Keion that’s just so great is that it’s all about winning.”

Washington holds a 6-1 series lead over Saint Mary’s, but the Gaels won the most recent meeting, 85-81 in the second round of the 2018 NIT.