You can say that the NIT championship doesn’t matter, but if you watched Thursday night’s final between SMU and Minnesota, you’d see how wrong you are.
The Golden Gophers captured the 2014 NIT championship on Thursday night, holding off SMU for a 65-63 victory. The team’s slugged it out for the full 40 minutes, with dozens of ties and lead changes, playing with the exact type of intensity you’d expect from a title contest.
Minnesota (25-13) is led by coach Richard Pitino—son of legendary Louisville coach Rick Pitino—who is in his second year at the helm in Minneapolis. After leading at halftime, the Gophers found themselves down by seven points with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
But Pitino’s group finished strong, outscoring the Mustangs 19-10 over the final six minutes to secure the victory and the championship.
SMU (27-10) seemed to have the game trending in its favor late in the second half. Like they’ve done throughout the tournament, the Mustangs trailed early, came back in the second half and had a chance to ice the game late.
But it wasn’t to be for Larry Brown’s team on this night. With the game on the line, it was the Gophers who closed stronger and earned the right to cut down the nets in Madison Square Garden.
Austin Hollins led the Gophers with 19 points, but it was Andre Hollins (no relation) who had 14 points and sealed the deal at the line.
Nic Moore led the Mustangs with 17 points in a losing effort.