Mark Few suspected his Gonzaga program was in good company.
Since the Maui Invitational launched its annual basketball tournament in 1984, a total of 60 teams have flown to the Hawaiian island for what many consider the sport’s premier multi-team event.
There won’t be anybody disputing that claim this season, when the Maui Invitational – which is moving to Honolulu in the wake of devastating Maui wildfires – brings in five of the top 11 teams in the country, including Nos. 1 (Kansas), 2 (Purdue), 4 (Marquette), 7 (Tennessee) and 11 (Gonzaga).
When it comes to past success in Maui, Gonzaga’s part of a rather exclusive club.
“We’ve got two championships,” Few said. “I don’t know how many programs have two.”
A quick search will show the Bulldogs don’t lead the tournament in that category. Duke’s captured a record five trophies at the Lahaina Civic Center, North Carolina’s won four championships and Arizona and Kansas each have three titles to their name.
Gonzaga, one of eight teams with multiple trophies, still carries a solid appearance-to-championship ratio into the 2023 tournament, held at the Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawaii’s campus. The Bulldogs have won at least two games in each of their last four Maui appearances and have an overall record of 11-4 at the tournament.
As Gonzaga gets set to make its sixth appearance this week, tipping off against Purdue at 2 p.m. (PT) on Monday, we revisit some of the Bulldogs’ top moments in Maui – one from each trip since the program’s inaugural visit in 2002.
2002: 24 for Turiaf
Gonzaga left no doubt in its Maui debut on Nov. 25, 2002, facing a Utah led by legendary coach Rick Majerus.
The Utes took an early 8-4 lead but Gonzaga’s response came in the form of a 19-0 run, allowing the Bulldogs to take a 23-8 lead and break the game open. Gonzaga held Utah scoreless for 8 minutes, 47 seconds, leading by 17 points at halftime.
Sophomore Ronny Turiaf submitted 24 points in just 24 minutes and took advantage of frequent opportunities at the free throw line. Turiaf made only four shots from the field but finished 15 of 16 from the charity stripe and also grabbed eight reboudns.
The Bulldogs dropped a tight game with Indiana in the semifinal round one day later and lost to Kentucky in a consolation game to finish 1-2.
2005: Mo outlasts MSU
To this day, nobody’s matched the 43 points Adam Morrison scored in a semifinal game during Gonzaga’s second trip to the Lahaina Civic Center. Granted, the All-American got 40 minutes of regulation and three overtime periods to set the tournament record in a thrilling 109-106 victory over Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans.
It’s still an impressive mark when you consider some of the names that have come through the annual tournament: Duke’s Grant Hill, Santa Clara’s Steve Nash, Kansas’ Paul Pierce, Arizona’s Richard Jefferson, UCLA’s Russell Westbrook, Arizona State’s James Harden and UConn’s Kemba Walker, to name a handful.
It took just about every one of Morrison’s 43 points for No. 8 Gonzaga to overcome No. 12 Michigan State and talented guard Maurice Auger, who made seven 3-pointers and scored 36 points, not to mention a strong performance from Spartans forward Paul Davis, who had 26 points and went 12 of 12 from the free throw line.
2009: Saved by Sacre
Mick Cronin had his fair share of Gonzaga the last three seasons, watching his UCLA team lose to the Bulldogs in a historic Final Four game two years ago, during a MTE in Las Vegas two years ago and for a third time this past March, when Julian Strawther buried a deep 3-pointer inside the final 10 seconds to help GU beat the Bruins for a spot in the Elite Eight.
But Cronin’s Zag-induced headaches started well before he took the job at UCLA in 2019.
Cronin and Cincinnati met up with Few and Gonzaga in the 2009 title game after the Bulldogs edged Colorado 76-72 in an opening-round game and cruised past Wisconsin 74-61 in the semifinals.
Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray shared tournament MVP honors, but the Bulldogs leaned on big man Robert Sacre to force overtime and outlast the Bearcats to claim their first trophy in their third Maui appearance.
It was Sacre who tied the game at 55-55 with 25 seconds remaining and then blocked a Yancy Gates jumper inside the final 10 seconds to send the game to an extra period.
Sacre and Elias Harris both pitched in during OT, combining to score six points – the only ones Gonzaga would manage in the final five minutes – to help the Bulldogs secure a 61-59 victory.
2013: Can’t stop KP
Junior Kevin Pangos turned a high-scoring consolation game during the 2013 tournament into shooting practice, making a career-high seven 3-pointers (on eight attempts) to finish with a personal-best 34 points, lifting Gonzaga to a 91-81 win over Arkansas.
Making Pangos’ performance even more impressive, the Canadian guard played all but one minute in Gonzaga’s third tournament game after logging 39 minutes in a loss to Dayton and 28 more the following day against Chaminade.
“You have to take your hat off to Pangos,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “This guy played 39 minutes, man, and it seemed like he played perfect basketball.”
Pangos was most effective behind the perimeter, but he finished 10 of 15 from the field and made 7 of 8 from the free throw line. Sam Dower (19 points) and Gary Bell Jr. (13) also finished in double figures for the Zags.
2018: Duked out
If there was a team in the 2019 field equipped to deal with Duke’s heralded freshman trio of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish – all future NBA lottery picks – it was Gonzaga, which featured two first-round picks in its frontcourt, Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura, along with another eventual first-round selection in sophomore wing Corey Kispert.
The top-ranked Blue Devils and third-ranked Bulldogs went back-and-forth much of the first half, but Gonzaga pulled ahead to take a 47-39 lead at the break. Gonzaga’s lead grew to as many as 16 points in the second half, but Duke chipped away and trimmed the deficit to 86-85 on a Tre Jones jumper with 2 minutes, 28 seconds left.
Clarke, Williamson and Hachimura scored on three straight possessions and Gonzaga held onto an 89-87 lead going into the final minute. Gonzaga’s athletic frontcourt came up with two straight blocks – Hachimura swatting Jones on the first, Clarke sending away Barrett’s shot on the second – and the Bulldogs survived four straight misses from the free throw line to preserve a two-point win and unseat the Blue Devils as the top team in the country.
The Bulldogs finished with four double-digit scorers – Clarke’s 20 points leading the way. Zach Norvell Jr. Added 18 points on four 3-pointers, Hachimura had 17 and freshman Filip Petrusev came off the bench to give the Bulldogs 11 points.
Williamson and Barrett poured in 45 points for Duke, but nothing was easy in a game where they’d go just 17 of 42 from the field.