LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Sophomore Yancy Gates wants to restore the legacy at Cincinnati basketball.
After consecutive victories over ranked opponents, the Bearcats are well on their way.
Gates scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and added 13 rebounds and Deonta Vaughn had 16 points in leading the Bearcats to the championship game of the Maui Invitational with a surprising 69-57 victory over Maryland (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) on Tuesday at the Lahaina Civic Center.
"Maui is the top tournament in the country," Gates said after scoring 12 of Cincinnati's 22 points during a second-half stretch that helped fend off the feisty Terrapins.
"For us if we can win this tournament and get our name up on that [championship] banner forever, I think it would be good step toward restoring Bearcat history and also building our confidence as the season goes on."
Cincinnati will now take on either Gonzaga or Wisconsin in Wednesday's championship, a major accomplishment for a young program making its first-ever appearance on Maui.
"There's no question that our guys are trying to restore the Bearcat tradition," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. "We got a chance to put our name on that banner now tomorrow.
"We've been to our share of Final Fours and our two national championships. It would be great for our program to do that," he added. "Like I told our guys, you can't win unless you get to the title fight."
Now they're in the final round, thanks to a handful of blows by their 6-foot-9 inside threat who demonstrated why he could be a force to be reckoned with in the Big East this season.
After scoring a co-game high 16 points -- 12 coming on an 18-2 run in the first half -- and 10 rebounds and against the Commodores, Gates did himself one better Tuesday, pulling down one of his four offensive rebounds off his own miss and putting it back in for a 16-point lead before benefiting from a nice pass from Vaughn on another 2-on-1 break, again finishing with a thunderous flush. He then capped his of 12-point spurt with a pair of free throws in all but finishing the game at 64-49 with 2:38 left.
"There's not many centers in the country as big and as quick as Cincinnati has in Gates," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "When you have a player like that, that just changes the situation for Cincinnati."
The Terrapins shot just 35.8 percent (19-of-53) and were outrebounded 47-33, but came out of halftime and clawed their way within eight after four straight points from Sean Mosley. Cincinnati's Rashad Bishop halted any momentum with a long-distance 3 to stretch the lead to 42-31 with 13:20 to play.
It quickly ballooned to 17, though, when Gates sank a baseline floater and added an inside layup.
"In the first half I didn't really need to do much. Our guards really controlled the game," Gates said. "Second half they kind of adjusted to that and Coach actually did call a time out and told me I needed to start being more aggressive in the post. "I was just trying to crash the boards more to get myself going more in the second half."
Maryland (4-1), which went for 6 minutes without scoring in the first half, led by three early. Cincinnati then used a 14-0 run to take a 25-11 advantage.
After the Terps rallied, Dion Dixon capped a 20-4 spurt with a buzzer beater that sent Cincinnati into halftime with a 13-point cushion.
"Guys are worried about playing defense. Nobody's worried about how many shots they're getting," Cronin said. "Defense is dictating who shoots the ball for us by who they leave open."