While many NCAA teams have played sparingly throughout the month of December to make room for finals and extended time off over the holiday season, several teams — including four in the AP top 25 — opted to seek out sunshine and high-level basketball to ease into the Christmas break.
Here’s the rundown of results from five top holiday tournaments (all rankings reflect the most recent poll):
Maui Jim Maui Classic (Dec. 15-16)
Participants: No. 11 Oregon State (Pac-12), No. 23 Texas A&M (SEC), UC Riverside (Big West), Eastern Washington (Big Sky)
The third annual Maui Jim Maui Classic saw Texas A&M taking down Oregon State for the title in a 76-70 finish. The Aggies’ Chennedy Carter scored 27 points and became the fastest player in school history to score her 1,000th career point in the win over Oregon State, which led to her being named tournament MVP. Like the Beavers, UC Riverside split its two games, while Eastern Washington finished 0-2.
Puerto Rico Classic (Dec. 19-21)
Participants: Indiana (Big Ten), South Dakota (Summit), Grambling State (SWAC), Loyola Marymount (WCC)
No team came out of this tournament unscathed, with Indiana, South Dakota and Grambling State going 2-1 and Loyola Marymount going 0-3. The biggest defeat by far came at the hands of Grambling State, who ended Indiana’s 10-game winning streak in a 65-62 thriller (16 games if you count the Hoosiers’ run to their Women’s National Invitation Tournament title at the end of last season). Indiana managed to hand every other team a loss, though, while Grambling State’s lone loss came to South Dakota.
Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic (Dec. 20-22)
Participants: Furman (Southern), Fairfield (MAAC), UTEP (C-USA), Western Illinois (Summit), Jackson State (SWAC), Akron (MAC), UIC (Horizon)
A veritable mashup of mid-majors squared off in Las Vegas over the weekend, with the Akron Zips emerging as the de facto tournament champion as the only team to escape without a loss. Five of the six remaining teams went 1-1, while UIC finished 0-2. Akron’s second game, a 64-57 win over UTEP, marked the program’s 500th victory. Megan Sefcik’s 17 points led the way for the Zips in the win, while Shaunay Edmonds added 13 points off the bench.
Happy Holidays from our family to yours! pic.twitter.com/Jsd06NTrvc— Akron Zips W Bball (@ZipsWBB) December 25, 2018
Florida Sunshine Classic (Dec. 20-22)
Participants: No. 24 Miami (ACC), Alabama (SEC), Creighton (Big East), South Florida (AAC), Vanderbilt (SEC), Virginia (ACC)
With some top representatives from around the country participating, the Sunshine Classic saw two teams go undefeated — but maybe not the two that some might have thought upon surveying the field. Miami was one of the 2-0 teams, while the other was Creighton, who was 4-5 heading into the tournament. Meanwhile, South Florida dropped both its games to fall to 9-4 on the season — including a seven-point decision to the Bluejays — putting the Bulls on their second two-game losing streak of the year. Alabama and Virginia went 1-1, while Vanderbilt was the tournament’s other winless team.
St. Pete Shootout (Dec. 21-22)
Participants: No. 15 Syracuse (ACC), Duquesne (Atlantic 10), UCF (AAC), Liberty (Atlantic Sun)
In a tournament full of close games, Syracuse emerged as the lone undefeated squad, fighting off UCF in its second game for a 57-52 victory. The Orange were led by Tiana Mangakahia, who scored 13 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter to help the team pull away. UCF won its opening game against Liberty to finish the weekend 1-1, Liberty won its second game over Duquesne to earn the same overall result and Duquesne couldn’t pick up a win, finishing 0-2 to fall below .500 on the season.