LAHAINA, Hawaii — Missouri showed three different faces in winning the Maui Classic but it was all done with the same old face in front of the Tigers bench.
The 11th-ranked Tigers beat No. 7 North Carolina 80-73 Sunday night to win the title and give Coach Norm Stewart a return to the sidelines to remember.
Stewart missed the last 14 games of last season after undergoing cancer surgery and the Tigers quickly gave him three more victories to add to his impressive career total.
"It was nice for me, but I don't think it was on the players' minds," Stewart said. "For our guys to play that hard for three days in this heat takes real stamina and they responded real well."
No. 12 Louisville took third place with an 83-69 victory over Villanova, while James Madison won the consolation bracket with a 70-60 win over Evansville. San Diego State took seventh with a 63-49 victory over host Chaminade, a Division II school.
Stewart watched his Tigers struggle from the outside in an opening-round victory over Evansville. Missouri then had to hold off Louisville in the semifinals as the Tigers blew a 22-point lead during the final eight minutes before scratching and clawing to an 82-79 victory.
Against the Tar Heels, Stewart decided to pack the defense in and, despite being outrebounded 41-27, it worked as North Carolina made just two of 18 three-point attempts and shot just 45% from the field.
"We had to pack it in for rebounding as much as anything else the way we handled the boards in the first two games," Stewart said. "If they'd started to make the shots, then we would have seen what we could do."
"I thought we played well enough to win but we didn't shoot well enough to win," North Carolina Coach Dean Smith said.