On Holiday: What's Maui without magic?
On Holiday is College Basketball Nation's daily rundown of the holiday tournaments, complete with previews, recaps, and links to all of the early-season tournament info you'll need in the weeks to come.
MAUI INVITATIONAL [bracket]
While You Were Sleeping: Dayton survives "just drive to the rim and get fouled, or at least just act like it" late-game offense, upsets Gonzaga 84-79
Just when you thought the Maui Invitational was going to go according to plan.
On an otherwise predictable first day of Maui action, Dayton unleashed a thorough performance in an 84-79 win over Gonzaga.
How? The Flyers were the more physical, sharper team throughout. Of the 50 rebounds on Gonzaga's end of the floor, Dayton grabbed 17. But it wasn't until the second half that the Flyers, um, took flight? (Wow, sorry.) Dayton scored 28 points in the first 20 minutes of the game, but required just 10 minutes and 28 seconds in the second half to do the same — blitzing the Zags with good spacing, crisp ball movement and a bevy of 3s. Jordan Sibert, Khari Price and Scoochie Smith made four 3s in one four-minute stretch, and eight of Dayton's nine 3s came in the second period.
The biggest among them came with just one minute to play. Up 75-72, Sibert took a quicker-than-recommended 3, and sank it, giving Dayton a 78-72 lead. The Flyers would need every bit of that lead in the final 60 seconds.
Why? Two reasons: First, Kevin Pangos was very good at getting to the rim. Second, he was very good at drawing fouls while doing so -- even when contact looked minimal at best. It was a tough night for the officials all around, and there were a lot of questionable calls, and a lot of unfortunate foul trouble, that marred an otherwise entertaining affair. But it was the final minute that was most noticeable, as Pangos kept turning the corner, kept getting fouled and kept earning free throws. Honestly, the final minute took forever.
Eventually, Pangos, who finished with 27 points, spurred his own undoing. His steal with 43 seconds left turned into a wide-open, missed floater, and Gary Bell Jr. failed to convert on the rebound. Then, 21 seconds later, Pangos and Bell converged on Dyshawn Pierre -- and Pangos, who had four fouls, slapped and fouled Bell. Bell gave Pangos a mystified look, just before the star guard calmly walked to the bench.
You can't have seen Dayton's performance and not bumped up your projections for the Flyers going forward. They were good. Very good. If they're able to control the offensive glass and knock down kickout 3s the way they did Monday night, they'll give teams even better than the Zags plenty of fits in the days and weeks to come.
Top Story 1B: Syracuse manages Minnesota. A near-upset of Kentucky in Lexington was Monday night's biggest non-tournament news, and Arizona State's campus-site preliminary thriller against Marquette was the most entertaining result of the day, but the most interesting game (at least to your humble correspondent) came Monday afternoon. Syracuse's 75-67 win over Minnesota was about as close as you get to a win-win.
For Syracuse, it was a victory, of course, but also much more than that. In four games to date, in particular last week's downright gross 56-50 home win over St. Francis, the Orange looked disjointed and out of sorts, especially on the offensive end. Senior C.J. Fair, a do-everything glue guy turned focal point, had struggled in his new role; a talented-but-thin Orange backcourt of Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis looked even less comfortable.
On Monday, though, Fair finally grabbed a game by the scruff of its neck. Late in the first half, Fair skied over two Minnesota defenders and dunked so hard his own face exploded into bloody stigmata. (In reality, he caught a fingernail or three on the way up, but I prefer my explanation.) With two minutes left in the second half, when Minnesota's press began to wear on Syracuse, Fair knocked down an ice-cold midrange jumper that built the Orange lead back out to four points, a lead that held the rest of the way. Fair finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds on 15 shots; Cooney made five 3s; Ennis went 1-of-9 from the field but 10-of-11 from the free throw line.
Minnesota, meanwhile, kept on being impressive. The Gophers have adapted to Richard Pitino's chip-off-the-block high-pressure style immensely well. That style kept them in the game throughout the second half, and good 3-point and free throw shooting put them there in the first place. Monday's performance, combined with a big road win at Richmond on Nov. 16, is enough to make one think the younger Pitino's first season might not involve much rebuilding at all.
The rest: California looked plenty impressive in its own right. Arkansas has not exactly been the best road defensive team under Mike Anderson, so make of that what you will, but still: Cal got a 19-point, 15-rebound, 8-of-12 night from forward David Kravish, 15 points on eight shots from promising wing Jabari Bird, and a nice 15-point, seven-assist night from senior guard Justin Cobbs. The phrase "total team win" applies here. … Chaminade couldn't hang with Baylor in the second half in Tuesday night's 93-77 loss, but it did have at least a little of what Baylor coach Scott Drew called "Maui Magic.” Silverswords guard -- and former Dunk City resident -- Christophe Varidel scored 31 points in the first half, and 42 total, and did it all while sporting an absolutely textbook chill-barista ponytail-scruff combo. Here's to you, Christophe!
Maui fixtures, Day 2:
Arkansas-Minnesota, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Chaminade-Gonzaga, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
California-Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Baylor-Dayton, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
PARADISE JAM: Maryland tops Providence in final, 56-52: So: Good win for Maryland? Letdown for Providence? What about neither? The Terps will take it, to be sure, and the Friars will walk away feeling as if an opportunity was lost, but I'm not willing to throw out any long-term Providence bullishness on the back of a 16-of-59 night from the field. Sometimes you eat the rim, and sometimes the rim eats you.
- BYU got a characteristically high-octane 86-82 win over Texas on the first night of the CBE Classic. That tally was topped only by Wichita State, which put up a tidy 90 on the still-defensively-challenged DePaul Blue Demons. Those two results set up a fantastic non-power-six final at the CBE, where Wichita State, fresh off a Final Four run, will happily soak up the home Kansas City energy that has in recent years been reserved for Kansas, Missouri and Kansas State. Movin' on up, indeed.
- The Legends Classic did its best to fill the Maui lull, but there wasn't a whole lot of entertainment value involved. Stanford got a pretty good 86-76 win over Houston.