Both teams entered this game at 4-0. Gonzaga was making its fourth appearance in Maui. Over the previous three the Zags were runners up once, champions once and have three players listed as Maui Invitational MVPs (Adam Morrison, Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray). On top of that, the Zags are ranked and the Flyers aren't. Should be an easy win for Gonzaga, right?
Nope, it's the Maui Invitational hosted by Chaminade. The same Chaminade that defeated then #1 Virginia in 1982. This is not the place for games that play out as they should on paper.
In the first half the Flyers posed no threat to the Zags. The front-court duo of Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski were able to exploit the short bigs from Dayton. Sam Dower, somewhat quietly posted 12 points in the first half. Junior guard Kevin Pangos went to the line and gave the Zags their biggest lead, 16 points, with 2:12 left to play in the first half.
After 20 minutes the Zags led 37-28.
Mark Few employed a zone defense in the first half and the Flyers struggled to score. At the break, whatever Archie Miller told his team worked; the Flyers needed just over ten minutes to double-up their first half total. Dayton pulled ahead with 14:29 left in the game. Gonzaga reclaimed the lead for about ten seconds before Dayton took over. The Flyers never relinquished the lead.
The Zags wouldn't let the Flyers pull away, but they never managed to get back on top. Dayton won 84-79 after a late game rally from the Zags fell short.
Foul trouble took over and the Zags were exposed. Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski both fouled out. Dower left with 3:46 left and Karnowski left with 3:01. Both picked up their fifth while blocking shots.
Gonzaga has three big men on their roster. Dower, a senior, Karnowski, a sophomore with experience and Ryan Edwards, a freshman who has yet to log minutes. Edwards had his tonsils removed just before the start of the season and is still unable to play. The Zags basically have two bigs and they start both. Edwards signed to Gonzaga without playing AAU ball.
Now let's talk about the Flyers. Dayton had four players in double figures led by Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert's 23. Dyshawn Pierre added 15, Devin Oliver had 12 and Khari Price contributed 11. More important than the stats the Flyers posted is the way they handled the Zags.
Coming into this game the Zags had a big advantage in the front-court. Devin Oliver is the tallest Flyer that gets significant minutes, and he's just 6' 7". The Zags start a 6' 9" forward and 7' 0" center. The shorter Flyers forced the entire Gonzaga front-court out of the game.
Next up for Dayton is #18 Baylor; Gonzaga will face Chaminade tomorrow morning.
Gonzaga will likely plummet in the polls and their RPI will take a major hit as Maui was their best chance to play quality teams before the start of WCC play. Dayton, on the other hand, has picked up a win against an elite team and now has a chance to pick up another, and if they're able to keep the upset trend going, another.