LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) Missouri lost its first two games in Maui, lost a starter early to injury and fought foul trouble.
Even with all that adversity, no way were the Tigers going to head home without a victory.
Namon Wright scored 21 points, Montaque Gill-Caesar added 18 and Missouri beat Chaminade 74-60 Wednesday in the seventh-place game of the Maui Invitational.
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”Our mentality coming in today was that we’re not going to leave Hawaii without a W, and I think we responded really well,” Gill-Caesar said.
Missouri (3-3) had two disappointing losses to open the tournament, but jumped on Chaminade (2-3) early, building a 10-point halftime lead behind Wright.
The Silverswords made a run in the second half, but Gill-Caesar stuffed any hope of a comeback by scoring 16 points and hitting four 3-pointers in the second half.
The Tigers did it with forward Johnathan Williams III playing just seven minutes because of a sore knee and with starting guards Keith Shamburger and Wes Clark going a combined 0 for 13 from the field.
”It wasn’t very pretty, but I thought we played well enough to win,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. ”On the third day, to be able to come and get a win is important.”
Chaminade didn’t get a win, but that’s not what this tournament is about for the Silverswords. To pull off another upset would be great, but the experience of playing big-name programs – one few Division II programs get on a consistent basis – will only help Chaminade down the line.
Lee Bailey led the Silverswords with 22 points and Kuany Kuany added 14.
”Our goal coming in, obviously we’d love to win a game, win a couple games and stuff like that,” Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird said. ”But the thing I talked to these guys about is we have the best opportunity in Division II to play against good competition to make us better.”
The Tigers were hoping to salvage something from their trip to paradise.
Missouri kept up with No. 3 Arizona in its opener before fading down the stretch and never really had a chance against Purdue on the second day.
The Tigers lost those two games by a combined 40 points and losing to the Division II Silverswords would have made it a disastrous trip.
Chaminade had pulled off upsets in this position before.
The host Silverswords are regulars in the seventh-place game with such strong fields in the Maui Invitational and have occasionally caught teams down or off-guard on the final day. Their lists of conquests include Texas, Oklahoma and Villanova through the years.
Chaminade struggled to open this year’s tournament, buried on the glass in a loss to Pittsburgh and by Chase Fischer’s wave of 3-pointers (10 in all) in a loss to BYU.
Missouri tried to make sure the Silverswords never stood a chance at the upset.
Using their depth to overwhelm the smaller Silverswords, the Tigers scored the game’s first nine points and built a 38-28 halftime lead.
Chaminade had trouble with Missouri’s length and athleticism, hitting 9 of 31 shots in the first half. The Silverswords also had a hard time finding Wright, who made all three of his 3-point attempts while scoring 12 points in the first half.
Missouri extended the lead to 15 in the first six minutes of the second half, but Chaminade went on a 7-0 run to pull within 52-46.
The upset suddenly seemed a possibility and the small-but-vocal group of Chaminade fans inside the Lahaina Civic Center started screaming and stomping the bleachers.
Gill-Caesar put an end to those thoughts, hitting three 3-pointers to push Missouri’s lead to 63-51.
”This tournament always helps just energy-wise and battle test us before we hit the conference play,” Bailey said.
Chaminade: The Silverswords were good from the free-throw line, making 13 of 17, but not so good from the 3-point arc, going 9 for 28.
Missouri: The Tigers outscored Chaminade 38-9 in bench points. … Clark went 0 for 7, Shamburger 0 for 6.
Missouri hosts Southeast Missouri State on Dec. 2.
Chaminade opens its Pacific West Conference schedule at home against Hawaii-Hilo on Dec. 4.
Gill-Caesar scored 13 points to lead the Tigers against Arizona before all but disappearing against Purdue (two points, 1-of-6 shooting). The talented freshman was back to being assertive against Chaminade, hitting 5 of 11 shots, including 4 of 8 from the 3-point arc.