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Gonzaga’s Morrison has fond Maui memories

Adam Morrison, now a student-assistant coach, didn’t make the trip with the Bulldogs but it’s a safe bet he’ll be mentioned more than once during ESPN telecasts of the Maui Invitational.

Morrison left a lasting impression at the 2005 tournament, including a masterful 43-point performance in a triple-overtime victory over Michigan State in the semifinals. He scored 86 points in three tourney games.

“It kind of put us on the map nationally that year,” Morrison said earlier this week. “There were a lot of questions after Ronny (Turiaf) left if we were going to be any good.”

ESPN put together the tournament’s five greatest moments, in no particular order, which featured a lengthy Morrison highlight package. He had five 40-point games in his Gonzaga career, including 44 versus Loyola Marymount and 43 against Washington, but considers Michigan State the best game of his college career.

“Just because of the emotional aspect, the three overtimes,” Morrison said. “I think we were probably underdogs and that venue was great, too. It was probably the one I enjoyed the most.”

It was great theater as Morrison and Michigan State’s Maurice Ager went head to head. Morrison played 52 minutes, hitting 14 of 28 shots and 11 of 12 free throws. Ager made seven 3s – one over Morrison’s outstretched arm to force the first overtime – and scored 36 points.

“When you get in the zone it gets to where you don’t care if you miss,” Morrison said. “Guys get hot and make four or five in a row and if you miss one or two you know you’re going to make the next one.”

Morrison and Ager crossed paths on occasion in the NBA but never talked about the game. Morrison has never watched a replay of the game in its entirety.

Morrison had added motivation for the tournament because he struggled against Idaho in the season opener, finishing with 15 points. The Michigan State game was one of the most physically grueling of his career, he said.

“Everyone was giving maximum effort,” he said. “We were happy but everybody was, ‘Hey, let’s get ready for UConn, let’s go get some rest and fluids and get ready.’ ”

Connecticut edged GU 65-63 for the title.

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