Story Links

Nov 27, 2002

Box Score

AP Basketball Writer

LAHAINA, Hawaii – Indiana coach Mike Davis was sitting next to his twofreshman guards after the 19th-ranked Hoosiers beat Virginia 70-63 to win theMaui Invitational and stated the obvious.

“The future is bright here,” he said. “To be a part of this is reallyspecial.”

Bracey Wright scored 21 points and fellow freshman guard Marshall Stricklandadded 15 for the Hoosiers.

“The adrenaline was pumping and the crowd was getting us in it so thethought of getting tired never entered our minds,” Wright said after theHoosiers’ third win in as many days gave them Maui Invitational title for thefirst time.

Wright was named the tournament’s MVP, joining North Carolina’s Joseph Fortein 1998 as the only freshmen to get that honor.

“Coming in I was just hoping to contribute,” Wright said. “I neverthought I’d be walking away with the MVP trophy. All I was thinking of waswalking away with a championship.”

The Hoosiers (3-0) were making their fourth appearance in the eight-teamtournament, and they were in the title game for the third time. In 1990 and1998, they lost to Syracuse with the championship at stake.

This time the young guards made sure the trophy was heading to Bloomington.

Wright had 11 points in the opening win over Massachusetts and 15 in thesemifinal victory over No. 20 Gonzaga.

Strickland, on the other hand wasn’t a factor in either game, getting atotal of three points, all against Gonzaga.

“He played up to his potential in this game, that’s what all the hype wasabout,” Wright said of his fellow freshman.

And unlike the game against Gonzaga, when the Hoosiers lost all but onepoint of a 17-point lead over the final three minutes, Indiana held the leadagainst the Cavaliers (3-1), who never got closer than seven points over thelast four minutes.

“We didn’t want people around the country talking about us not being ableto close out games,” Wright said. “We came in today and we knew if got up wewere going to have keep them down as far as we could.

“Last night we almost didn’t make it but we got up late in the game andheld them off as best as we could.”

Nick VanderLaan of Virginia made two free throws with 11:47 to play to tiethe game at 44. Wright and Strickland then combined for all but four points ofa 15-1 run that had the Hoosiers up 59-45 with 6:54 left.

Strickland had a four-point play and a three-point play in the run, andWright had two free throws and a breakaway layup after a Virginia turnover.

Strickland added a hoop on a nice flip move under the basket with 3:57 leftafter a 3-pointer by Todd Billet had Virginia within 61-55.

“In the huddle, Coach talked about picking up the intensity on theoffensive end, hit the boards, I tried to get the guys going,” Stricklandsaid.

He didn’t have a lot of details to recount about the four-point play.

“I got a good pass and I knew someone was coming at me, and I knew he wasbig so I got the shot off,” Strickland said.

Travis Watson had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who advancedto the title game by beating No. 15 Kentucky in the semifinals. Virginia hadbeen to the championship game in 1996, but lost to Kansas.

“We just didn’t have our legs tonight, but that was true for both teams,”Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. “The freshmen shot the ball and they both hitkiller 3s. They came at us with waves and waves of guards and we just don’thave the depth to deal with them.”

Jeff Newton added 11 points for Indiana, while George Leach had five pointsand 13 rebounds.

Davis praised his veteran players who last April lost to Maryland in thenational championship game, but he was effusive about the freshmen.

“That’s what I’ve been saying from Day One when they signed their lettersof intent,” he said. “They are two really good basketball players. Tonightwas a night we really needed them to step and play and they did.”

Elton Brown had 12 points for the Cavaliers. Derrick Byars added 11 pointsand VanderLaan 10. Keith Jenifer had six points and eight assists for Virginia,which shot 35 percent (20-for-57).

“I wish we would have played with more poise and confidence,” Gillen said.”I think Indiana is one of the top 10, 15 teams in the country but we didn’tplay like we thought we could win the game. We just weren’t in synch.”

Print Friendly Version