LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP)—The rest of college basketball has all season to try and match this one.
Adam Morrison set a tournament record with 43 points and No. 8 Gonzaga beat No. 12 Michigan State 109-106 in triple overtime Tuesday night in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
If the game was played in March instead of late November, it would have gone down as one of the sport’s classics. It still should.
Pick a point and there was something to marvel about.
There were 13 lead changes in the final 7:30 of regulation, four in the final 1:14. Maurice Ager of Michigan State tied it at 80 at the final buzzer of regulation with his fifth 3-pointer over the final 7:10.
The first overtime ended with Gonzaga having a chance to win, but the Bulldogs missed three shots in the final 9 seconds.
The second overtime ended with the officials putting 0.9 seconds back on the clock after a Michigan State turnover just before the buzzer but Gonzaga couldn’t take advantage.
Then, finally, Morrison made two free throws with 19 seconds left in the third overtime to give Gonzaga (3-0) the lead for good at 107-106. Michigan State freshman Goran Suton missed a layup with 4.6 seconds left. Derek Raivio made two free throws without time going off the clock for a three-point lead.
Shannon Brown of Michigan State tried to get off a 3 to tie but he lost the ball on the way up. He was closely guarded by Gonzaga’s Jeremy Pargo and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo jumped and yelled for a foul but one of the best games in the history of the one of the best inseason tournaments was over.
“It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever been involved in,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I tip my hat to players on both teams. I’m proud of my guys for battling through all of that.”
His counterpart agreed.
“That was a great game,” Izzo said. “There were so many incredible plays. I feel bad we had to lose it and the way we lost it.”
Gonzaga advanced to Wednesday’s championship game against No. 3 Connecticut, which beat No. 9 Arizona 79 to 70. It will be Gonzaga’s first championship game as the Bulldogs lost in the semifinals to Indiana in 2002.
“I can think of Final Fours that weren’t this good,” Izzo said. “This will come back to help us some time this year as long as we don’t let it get us down.”
Raivio had 26 points for Gonzaga and J.P. Batista added 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Ager finished with a career-high 36 points despite picking up his fourth foul with 18:29 left in the second half. His fifth foul was the one that sent Morrison to the line for what turned out to be the winning points.
“The fouls took away some of my aggressiveness,” Ager said.
Ager and Morrison were on each other for a good portion of the game.
“It was pretty much the sequence of things,” Ager said. “It was big-time and I felt like I had to settle it.”
Morrison said he was angry at himself that Ager hit the shot at the end of regulation to tie the game.
“But we didn’t lose it,” he said. “The beauty of this game was the players were making plays at the end and the refs didn’t decide it, players did.”
Paul Davis had 26 points and 13 rebounds for the Spartans (1-2). Shannon Brown had 19 points for Michigan State, 16 in the first half and a 3 in the first overtime.
Davis and Raivio played 53 of the 55 minutes and Morrison played 52.
“It was one of those games that people say neither team deserved to lose,” Davis said. “I can’t describe what we’re feeling right now.”
Morrison was 14-for-28 from the field, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Ager finished 13-for-27 overall and 7-for-17 from beyond the arc.
The previous Maui Invitational record for points was 40 by Terrell Lowery of Loyola Marymount against Chaminade in 1990.
It was Gonzaga’s longest game since going four overtimes in an 81-78 victory over Boise State in February 1978. It was Michigan State’s first triple-overtime game since an 86-84 loss to Detroit in November 1996.
Gonzaga missed its first free throw of the game—Morrison—then made 27 straight. Michigan State finished 26-for-29 from the line and the teams missed only one in the second half and overtime.
Michigan State won the tournament in 1991 and finished fourth in 1995.