Three tournament finals ended Thanksgiving week's marathon of early season events on Sunday night.
Yesterday was a bit of a return to the beginnings of this site for me, as I went to the final session of the Old Spice Classic at Walt Disney World for the first time since 2008 (the pre-SB Nation days), which happened to be the last time I spent Thanksgiving week in Florida. Before that, I had only missed the opening Thursday session of each of the first three tourneys.
If you ever plan to be down here for the holiday week and you like college basketball even a bit, I highly recommend that you check out a few games at ESPN's Wide World of Sports. The arena is intimate, and there truly is not a bad seat in the house. Plus, tickets are general admission, so you can move around as much as you like. If you aren't used to watching basketball in person, you'll instantly gain a greater appreciation for the sport sitting so close...and that's something you won't get if you see a game in a huge arena. This is also another reason to check out your local mid-major team, who will offer a similar arena experience, though I can't promise they'll have concession stands selling Wetzel's Pretzels and lemonade in their gyms.
On the court, the evening session in Lake Buena Vista offered two competitive games. Gonzaga became the first two time winner of the tournament, repeating its 2008 feat, by topping Davidson, 81-67, in a game the Bulldogs took control of late -- though they threatened to do so in the first half before a Wildcat run after halftime made it close again. Kevin Pangos was draining threes (5-9) on the way to 23 points, and tournament MVP Elias Harris was even hotter from the floor, connecting on 9 of his 11 field goal attempts, racking up 24 in the process. Davidson's leading scorer was Nik Cochran -- one of three Canadians seeing regular minutes in this contest on Grey Cup night -- with 17.
Third place went to Oklahoma, who topped West Virginia in the soft opening of the Big 12 season, 77-70. The two will meet again to open their respective Big 12 campaigns in Morgantown on January 5th. Amath M'Baye led Oklahoma with 18 points, but Cameron Clark (6 points) stole the show with two thunderous alley-oop dunks. Juwan Staten had 15 for the Mountaineers.
Clemson claimed fifth by taking care of Marist, 59-44, while Vanderbilt demolished UTEP, 73-49, to avoid an 0-3 trip.
The Directv Classic in Anaheim went to California, who pulled away from Pacific late, winning 78-58. The Golden Bears' backcourt had a big night, as Alan Crabbe and Justin Cobbs went off for 44 total points. Third place went to Georgia Tech, 65-56 winners over the team many thought would bring home the title, St. Mary's. Xavier joined the Yellow Jackets in leaving Orange County with two wins, as they escape their contest against Drake with a 74-70 win. In the seventh place game, Drexel ended its two-game skid with a 55-47 win over Rice.
Finally, South Carolina took out Arkansas Little Rock, 74-62, to win the Hoops For Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta. In the consolation game, SMU returned to their winning ways a night after losing to UALR, as Larry Brown's squad topped Missouri State, 62-61.
In the visitors' bracket, Rider had no trouble with Milwaukee, claiming the trophy with a 74-60 win and a resulting 2-0 record.
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