Syracuse Wins Third Maui Invitational Tourney
By Rodney S. Yap
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim joked about missing the snow and 20-degree weather back home at Sunday’s Maui Invitational Tournament press conference.
Despite Maui’s charms, Boeheim is not easily distracted. His example served his team well this week as No. 8 Orange handled their business as promised, turning back a stubborn Baylor team Wednesday en route to a 74-67 win in the championship game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational Tournament.
A standing-room-only crowd jam into the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center to watch Syracuse claim its third Maui Invitational title, while improving to a perfect 7-0 on the season. The Orange beat Indiana in their two previous trips to the Valley Isle in 1990 and 1998.
The 18th-ranked Bears (6-1) were also undefeated coming into the game, making the 2013 MIT title game the quality nationally-televised event college basketball fans across the country have come to expect on the eve of Thanksgiving for the last three decades.
“The next time I come to Maui, I’ll have my golf clubs,” said Boeheim, who is a perfect 9-0 here. “I did not have them this time. But I’m going to go outside tomorrow morning and enjoy the beach for the first time.”
Duke is the only other unbeaten team in tournament history with five titles.
Syracuse senior C.J. Fair scored 24 points and was named the tournament MVP, joining former Syracuse players Billy Owens (1990) and Jason Hart (1998) as MVPs of the Maui Invitational. Fair made 10 of 17 field-goal attempts, including two huge jumpers after Baylor closed to within 66-60 with 3 minutes left in the game.
“I knew that the team was looking for me to make plays, and once I seen a couple of my jumpers go in, that kind of gave me confidence and my teammates confidence to keep getting me open and finding me,” said Fair.
Jerami Grant scored 19 points for the Orange and was named to the all-tournament team. Freshman point-guard Tyler Ennis added 11 points, nine assists, and four steals. Sophomore shooting guard Trevor Cooney chipped in 11.
“Our offense has been really good here,” Boeheim said. “C.J. got us off to a great start, and then Jerami had a great stretch. I guess we’ll keep the new play we put in for this tournament. It worked pretty well.”
Fair certainly liked it when his number was called, responding repeated over the course of the three-day tournament.
“It was a total team effort,” Fair added. “Coach kept running the play. We were basically doing one play the last 10 minutes, but we had different options off of it. And I think all of the options worked.”
Syracuse led by eight at halftime and by as many as 13 points in the second half.
Baylor had a 10-2 run to make it 68-62 with Cory Jefferson dunking an alley-op pass, but Fair responded immediately with a jumper with just over two minutes left.
Earlier, Baylor pulled to within 4 points when Jefferson tipped in a missed shot by Kenny Chery, but Syracuse answered with a 10-point run capped by a steal by Cooney that led to a fast break and a layup for Ennis to make it 66-52 with just over five minutes left.
Jefferson led Baylor (6-1) with 15 points. Brady Heslip and Chery had 12 points each.
“There is always room for improvement win or lose no matter what happens,” Jefferson said. “We’re just going to go back, watch film of the games, over this whole tournament. Look at the things we did wrong and improve it.”
In consolation action Wednesday at the Lahaina Civic Center:
Devin Oliver had 21 points and Dayton halted an early second-half surge by California to win the third-place game of the Maui Invitational, 82-64.
In the fifth-place game, Kevin Pangos scored 32 points and No. 11 Gonzaga easily beat Arkansas 91-81. Pangos made seven of eight 3-point attempts, including four during a 3-minute stretch in the second half.
In the seventh-place game, Minnesota beat Division II host Chaminade 83-68.
Most Valuable Player
C.J. Fair – Syracuse (18.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 6 stls, 3 asts, 1 blk)
2012 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational All-Tournament Team
1) Kevin Pangos – Gonzaga (26.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 12 asts, 4 stls)
2) Jerami Grant – Syracuse (16.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5 asts)
3) Devin Oliver – Dayton (15.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 10 asts, 4 stls)
4) Cory Jefferson – Baylor (13.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6 blks, 1 ast)
5) Justin Cobbs – California (21.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 16 asts, 6 stls, 2 blks)