Minnesota is doing everything it can to prove the NCAA Tournament selection committee snubbed it by advancing to the NIT Championship final to take on Southern Methodist in Madison Square Garden. The Final Four of the NIT on Tuesday were a couple of games worthy of March Madness.
The two teams will face each other in the championship game on April 3 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Here is a quick recap of the two games on Tuesday.
No. 1 Southern Methodist 65, No. 3 Clemson 59
The Southern Methodist Mustangs had to rally from a 12 point deficit against Clemson to advance to the NIT Championship game at Madison Square Garden. SMU opened the second half down by 12, but came out of halftime outscoring Clemson 19-7 to tie the game with close to 10 minutes left. From there, the two teams traded blows back and forth, with SMU pulling away late with free throws.
Mustangs forward Markus Kennedy led all scorers with 21 points and nine rebounds. Nic Moore added 13 and Nick Russell put in 10 points in a brutal game for the SMU backcourt. The two players combined to shoot 7-for-21 with seven turnovers. The Clemson offense was rolling in the first half, going 14-for-25, but melted down in such a fashion that it's hard to know if it went cold or if it was SMU's defense that was the difference maker. It was probably a combination of both as the Tigers would hit just 6-of-25 field goal attempts in the second half, including hitting 2-of-10 three point attempts. Forward Rod Hall led Clemson with 18 points.
Florida State overcame a 10-point second half deficit but eventually succumbed in overtime to Minnesota as the Gophers advanced to the championship game of the NIT. The Seminoles tied the game midway through the second half, but needed a bit of magic to force overtime. Devon Bookert hit his only three of the game in a dramatic fashion to force overtime (GIF courtesy of @cjzero), but then overtime was a different story. Florida State took a one-point lead when Bookert made a free throw, and Maurice Walker tied it for Minnesota with his own free throw - over two minutes into overtime. The two teams combined to go 0-for-8 in the first two minutes of overtime, forcing Minnesota Twins relief pitcher and Gophers alumni Glen Perkins to air it out on Twitter.
And just when you think NCAA players should get paid, you watch this overtime.— Glen Perkins (@glen_perkins) April 2, 2014
Fouls would ensue, but Minnesota hit its free throws. Only one field goal was made in the entire overtime, when Florida State's Ian Miller hit a layup with six seconds remaining. Deandrea Mathieu and Austin Hollins led Minnesota with 17 points a piece as both teams struggled to put points on the board efficiently. Each team shot approximately 39 percent from the floor and left a fair amount of points on the free throw line. Florida State especially struggled from the three point line, hitting 4-of-18 attempts.
Here is a link to the updated bracket.