Gonzaga edges Cincinnati for Maui Invitational title

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Thanks to several big plays by 7-footer Robert Sacre, Gonzaga left Maui with a championship at last.

Sacre scored 14 points and the Bulldogs won the Maui Invitational for the first time in three tries, beating Cincinnati 61-59 in overtime Wednesday night at the Lahaina Civic Center.

"Obviously, this is the pinnacle and the creme de la creme of all the preseason tournaments. This is the kingpin and any other analogy you'd like to use. That's why it's so special," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "When you look up and you see all those teams that have won this thing, and what they've accomplished maybe after they won this thing, it makes you feel great for your guys."

With the Bearcats clinging to a 55-53 lead with 43 seconds left, co-tournament MVP Steven Gray -- who shared the honor with senior Matt Bouldin -- held the ball as long as the shot clock would allow before feeding Sacre in the paint for a one-handed floater with 16 seconds left.

Sacre then came up even bigger -- and higher -- on the defensive end, hustling back down the court to defend Cincinnati's final play, run without a timeout.

After playing a little too far up with Lance Stephenson draining the final seconds at the top of the arc, Sacre eventually dropped back to cover Yancy Gates, who charged along the right baseline and caught Stephenson's alley-oop pass with just seconds remaining, attempting to flush it home for the championship.

Sacre, though, timed his jump perfectly and swatted the ball out of Gates' hands, sending the game to overtime.

"That was a big-time play," Few said. "We were telling our guys we needed to bluff help, bluff help, but the message was trying to be sent to the perimeter players and not the post players. So he got a little excited and got up the lane and he made an incredible athletic play to turn and go make that block."

It was Gonzaga's first championship on Maui after losing to Connecticut 65-63 in the 2005 title game and finishing fourth in 2002.

Few was most impressed with how his team won the three-day tournament.

"We had to dig ourselves out of a hole against Colorado, we played a very efficient game yesterday against a Wisconsin team then we got in a backyard brawl tonight and won it that way," Few said. "So we won it in a lot of different fashions, so I think that's a good sign right there."

The Bulldogs, who also got 12 points from Demetri Goodson, overcame a 10-point second-half deficit. Gray and Elias Harris added 13 points apiece for Gonzaga (5-1).

"They showed a lot of heart tonight," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "They know how to win. Their tradition is established right now. They have guys that understand how to step it up. They were never going to go away, they were going to keep fighting."

Stephenson led Cincinnati (4-1) with 15 points.

The Bearcats looked weary in overtime, missing several free throws in the first 1:45. Cincinnati's Steve Toyloy made one of two from the foul line before Gray found Sacre for an emphatic baseline dunk with 2:41 left that put Gonzaga in front by two.

Harris made it a three-point game with a free throw but Gates grabbed an air ball by Cashmere Wright and slammed it through with 12.6 seconds remaining to trim it to 60-59.

The Bearcats, who led by four at halftime and 10 with 13:20 left in the second half, had a final chance to force a second overtime with 9.8 seconds to go after Sacre hit the front end of a pair of free throws. Driving to his right with time winding down, Wright put up a floater that caromed off the backboard, hit the rim and fell into the arms of Harris as time expired.

"At the end of the day, this has been a great trip for us," Cronin said. "Everyone can see that Cincinnati basketball is back on the map. We're not going anywhere."