After three days of exciting basketball, the Maui Invitational came to a close with Gonzaga bringing home the trophy. The Zags defeated first ranked Duke, 89-87, to secure the tournament title.
The games in Maui kicked off with a thriller, as eighth ranked Auburn narrowly escaped an Xavier team with upset on their minds, winning 88-79 in overtime. Two of the other three games on Monday were close as well. Iowa State fell to Arizona by 5, and Gonzaga only defeated Illinois by 6. Duke easily handled San Diego State, winning by 26.
The semi finals featured a matchups many considered a possible future elite eight matchup: Auburn vs. Duke. Auburn hung close for the entirety of the game, but excellent freshman play from Duke propelled them to a 6 point win. Gonzaga’s offense pounced on Arizona early, and the Zags moved on to the championship with a 91-74 victory.
The championship game was one for the ages. Gonzaga had a tremendous first half, as the led the first ranked Blue Devils 47-39 at the break. However, Coach K’s squad clawed back, going on a 17-6 run to tie the game at 87 with under two minutes to play. Despite missed free throws by the Zags, they managed to score two more and defend RJ Barrett’s isolation attempts to hold on for a 89-87 victory.
In the consolation games, Iowa State stood out, handling Illinois and San Diego State by double digits in each contest. The Cyclones are on the rise in the Big 12.
The teams return from Maui to play mostly buy games, hopefully improving their overall record prior to conference play. Gonzaga and Duke both significantly improved their resumes with wins over top 10 teams, which will really make a difference in early March when the bracket is released.