LAHAINA, Hawaii – No current Gonzaga players saw court time when the Bulldogs captured to 2009 EA Sports Maui Invitational championship.
That doesn’t mean they’re not aware of the accomplishment.
“That’s the standard now,” said junior guard Kevin Pangos, referring to the ’09 squad and indirectly to Gonzaga’s 2012 Old Spice Classic championship. “It just means we have to step up our game and try to win two (titles) in row.
“I can’t wait. I’ve never been (to Maui). I know it’s a big tournament, great teams and obviously the weather is going to be nice. It’s a great time of year.”
David Stockton and Sam Dower Jr. are Gonzaga’s elder statesmen. Both redshirted in 2009-10 as Gonzaga knocked off Colorado, Wisconsin and Cincinnati at the Lahaina Civic Center. The Zags have won five of their last six at the tournament, falling to Connecticut in the 2005 title matchup.
The 13th-ranked Zags open against Dayton Monday night at 9 PST. Both teams are 4-0, both own Maui titles (Dayton defeated Central Michigan, San Diego State and Hawaii to win the 2003 tournament) and both won Old Spice championships (Dayton in 2011, Gonzaga in 2008, 2012).
No. 20 Baylor faces Chaminade in the other half of Gonzaga’s bracket. In other openers, Arkansas meets Cal and No. 9 Syracuse takes on Minnesota. The eight teams combined are 30-0.
“They have six of their top eight back (from last season), very athletic and it sounds like they can shoot it,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said of Dayton. “To go on the road and whip Georgia Tech, that’s a great road win in November.”
The Flyers pulled out a season-opening 81-80 victory over IPFW (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne) on junior guard Jordan Sibert’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer, which came after an IPFW turnover on an inbounds pass with 6 seconds left.
Sibert, a transfer from Ohio State, leads a balanced attack at 13.8 points per game. Senior forward Devin Oliver, who scored 20 points against Georgia Tech, is averaging 13 points. Sophomore guard Khari Price averages 12.5 and sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre is at 12. Senior guard Vee Sanford, a Georgetown transfer, chips in 10.8 points.
Dayton, picked seventh in the 13-team Atlantic 10, tied a program record with 17 steals versus Georgia Tech and had a 33-6 edge in points off turnovers. Archie Miller, brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller, is in his third year as Dayton’s coach.
“To be going into this thing defending a title is something that we need to, A) be ready for and, B) understand just what that challenge is,” Few said.
Gonzaga will be without freshman center Ryan Edwards, who had a tonsillectomy nearly three weeks ago. He hopes to play against Coppin State on Dec. 1.