No. 18 Baylor to Face No. 8 Syracuse in MIT Final
By Rodney S. Yap
Any questions about Baylor’s mental toughness were answered Tuesday when Cory Jefferson’s putback propelled the 18th-ranked Bears into tonight’s finals of the 30th annual EA Sports Maui Invitational Tournament.
Down the entire game, Jefferson’s go-ahead basket came with little more than 16 seconds left as the 18th-ranked Bears rallied for a 67-66 victory over Dayton in the second of two semifinals played at the Lahaina Civic Center.
“Really proud of how our team hung in there. We led 1-zero and we finished leading by one,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Everything else was chasing Dayton.”
The Bears earn the right to play No. 8 Syracuse for the tournament championship tonight, beginning at 5 p.m. on ESPN television and ESPN 550AM radio.
Tyler Ennis scored 28 points and led two key second-half runs to power Syracuse past California 92-81 in Tuesday’s early semifinal.
“It was a great game to watch, a typical Maui-type game. I thought the atmosphere was tremendous and you had two teams that really battled all the way to the end.”
Dayton’s Vee Sanford missed a contested shot in close with 2 seconds left and teammate Devin Oliver’s tip-in attempt bounced off the rim before Baylor grabbed the rebound as the final buzzer sounded.
“I don’t know how I missed it,” Oliver said afterwards.
“Our game plan was to stay together as a team. We just wanted to be tough. Our mental toughness was in question, so as a team, we just wanted to stay together and be tough and try to pull one out,” said Cherry.
Baylor trailed by 14 with less than 5 minutes left in the first half before going on a nine-point run to cut it to 33-28 at halftime.
The Flyers built the lead back up over the first part of the second half behind Sibert, but missed seven of their last 10 shots.
“For about 30 minutes in that game our guys looked about as good as any team in college basketball,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said.
But he thought the Flyers lost the necessary intensity in the final minutes of the game.
“We just gave them too many opportunities to slice into us.”
Dayton will play California in the third-place game.
No. 8 SYRACUSE 92, CALIFORNIA 81
Syracuse will be trying to win its third Maui Invitational title (1990 and 1998) Wednesday Nov. 27.
Syracuse scored 51 points in the second half, shooting 55% and making five of seven 3-point attempts.
“Our guards were unbelievable today and I didn’t even know that until I looked at the stat sheet,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I knew they were pretty good, but they were better.”
“We probably lost our focus momentarily, and just kind of turned and got careless with the ball,” California coach Mike Montgomery said.
Syracuse beat Cal last season to reach the Sweet Sixteen on the way to the Final Four.
The game was close until midway through the second half, with 10 ties and 12 lead changes.
The Bears played without Richard Solomon because of a cut on his right eye. Solomon started Cal’s previous five games.
“With Solomon being out it was just a different team,” Boeheim said. “I thought watching Cal yesterday that their team this year is much better than last year’s team that we played (in the NCAA tournament).”
No. 11 GONZAGA 113, CHAMINADE 81
Gonzaga’s Sam Dower Jr.. and Gerard Coleman scored 19 points each as the Bulldogs cruised to an easy win over Division II Chaminade in one of two loser-bracket games Tuesday.
“Today was about responding and we needed to respond — we were obviously very disappointed after last night and the way we played some aspects of the game,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “This was about kind of looking inside yourself and stepping up against a team that can kind of frustrate you.”
Lee Bailey led Chaminade (2-2) with 29 points and Tyree Harrison added 10.
The 2015 EA Sports Maui Invitational field was announced on Monday. Participants in the prestigious early season college basketball tournament will be Indiana, Kansas, St. John’s, UCLA, UNLV, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, as well as host Chaminade.
The 2014 field comprises Arizona, BYU, Kansas State, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Purdue, San Diego State and Chaminade.