EA SPORTS MAUI INVITATIONAL
UConn's Denham Brown chased down a loose ball with Arizona's Chris Rodgers in the second half of last night's game.
Gonzaga outslugs Spartans
OVER 16 YEARS spent helping build a tournament held in a tiny West Maui gym into a premier event on the college basketball calendar, Wayne Duke has certainly seen his share of big games.
But even the longtime chairman of the EA Sports Maui Invitational couldn't remember a game to rival yesterday's semifinal battle between No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 12 Michigan State at the Lahaina Civic Center.
"Within a classic tournament there have been so many classic games with this one being beyond description," Duke said after watching Gonzaga advance to today's championship game with a thrilling 109-106 win in triple overtime.
A tournament that has already delivered on the promise of being one of the best in the event's history concludes with a showdown between Gonzaga and No. 3 Connecticut in the championship game at 5 p.m. today.
UConn joined the Bulldogs in the final by holding off No. 9 Arizona for a 79-70 win in yesterday's final game.
"We should feel great about our effort and the outcome and everything we did tonight so we'll be very excited to play for the championship of what's been labeled the greatest preseason tournament ever," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "That's quite an honor and we'll dig down deep and find whatever we have to."
Michigan State plays Arizona in the third-place game at 11:30 a.m.
Today's championship matchup featuring two of the nation's elite programs will also highlight the talents of forwards Adam Morrison of Gonzaga and UConn's Rudy Gay.
Morrison set a tournament record by scoring 43 points against Michigan State, breaking the mark of 40 set by Loyola Marymount's Terrell Lowery in 1990.
Gay struggled yesterday after scoring a career-high 28 points against Arkansas on Monday. He finished with six points on 2-for-10 shooting. But the Huskies had five players score in double digits, led by Denham Brown's 17 points, to beat Arizona.
"These are the satisfying wins as a coach because you know you've got not just one or two players," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "You have a whole bunch of folks who maybe can contribute during the season."
Morrison's clutch shooting led Gonzaga to a win in the tournament's highest-scoring contest since Chaminade defeated Providence 111-108 in 1991.
In the final 3 minutes of regulation and the three overtimes, Morrison hit five shots that either tied the game or gave Gonzaga the lead and made the decisive free throws with 19 seconds left in the marathon contest.
"He did an amazing job and hit some amazing shots," Few said. "We've seen him hit those before and I don't think it surprised anybody, but how he did it and who he did it against is probably the most phenomenal part."
Morrison's outing was just enough to overcome a 36-point performance by Michigan State guard Maurice Ager, who hit seven 3-pointers.
Ager sent the game into overtime with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. His final long-range shot put Michigan State up 106-105 with 33 seconds left in the third overtime. But Morrison had one more answer.
"He's a big-time player, but at the same time I felt I had to match it on the other end," Ager said of his duel with Morrison.
"I just kept shooting it, I felt my team needed me to take those shots."
Both teams were exceptional from the free-throw line, as Gonzaga made 27 of 28 attempts, while Michigan State went 26-for-29 from the line.
Gonzaga guard Derek Raivio nailed several big shots of his own and finished with 26 points. Center J.P. Batista contributed 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Michigan State center Paul Davis had 26 points and 13 rebounds. Guard Shannon Brown hit for 19 points despite fighting through leg cramps for much of the game.
"That was certainly one of the greatest games I've ever been involved in," Few said. "I just tip my hat to the players on both teams, Michigan State's and mine. I'm so proud of my guys for battling through all of that."
No. 3 Connecticut 79, No. 9 Arizona 70
The Huskies squandered a seven-point lead early in the second half, and trailed 55-52 with 7:15 left in the game. But they responded with a 15-1 run to reclaim the lead and advance to the final.
"We're so reliant on Rudy to do some things and he didn't have a particularly good evening. That's happened to every great player I've ever had," Calhoun said.
"But the more important story of the game was the fact that we go on a 15-1 run at the end after getting down after leading the whole basketball game."
Arizona center Ivan Radenovic led the Wildcats with 20 points and gave them their first lead of the game at 50-49 with 11:54 left in the second half with his third 3-pointer of the night.
With the Wildcats leading by three, Rashad Anderson hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to spark the Huskies' run. Hilton Armstrong later finished a fast break with a dunk while being fouled and Craig Austrie nailed a long-range shot to put UConn up 65-56.
The Huskies then held on and will shoot for its first tournament title today.
Austrie finished with 15 points and Armstrong had 14. Arizona's Hassan Adams posted 14 points.
Arkansas 65, Kansas 64
Dontell Jefferson hit a free-throw-line jumper with 16.9 seconds left and the Razorbacks blocked Kansas' last two shots to advance to today's fifth-place game against Maryland.
After Arkansas took the lead, Kansas' Jeff Hawkins put up a 3-pointer that Jefferson swatted out of bounds with 2.5 seconds left. Russell Robinson had a final shot but couldn't get it beyond the reach of 7-foot center Steven Hill.
Arkansas guard Ronnie Brewer led all scorers with 23 points. Jefferson finished with 13. Kansas freshman Brandon Rush led the Jayhawks with 20 points.
Maryland 98, Chaminade 69
The Terrapins trailed the Division II Silverswords by 11 in the first half, and went into halftime down 46-44. But they woke up in the second half and went on a 23-0 run to blow past Chaminade.
Maryland guard Chris McCray led five Maryland players in double figures with 17 points. Forwards Nik Caner-Medley and James Gist had 16 each.
Guard Chris Reaves led Chaminade with 13 points. Zack Whiting finished with 14 assists, one short of the tournament record.