Substitute center Maurice Walker made six free throws in overtime and Minnesota held off Florida State 67-64 on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York to reach the NIT championship game.
Austin Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu scored 17 points apiece for the Golden Gophers (24-13), who squandered a 15-point cushion and overcame Devon Bookert’s tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation. They will play Thursday night against fellow top seed SMU in a title game that certainly features a New York flavor on the sidelines.
Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, of course, is the son of former Knicks and current Louisville coach Rick Pitino. He’ll go up against Hall of Famer Larry Brown, who was born in Brooklyn and coached the Knicks himself long before taking over the Mustangs.
Okaro White had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the top-seeded Seminoles (22-14), who have never won a national postseason tournament. Reserve Ian Miller also scored 16, but missed a 3 at the overtime buzzer that would have tied it.
Bookert had 13 points for Florida State, including its last seven in regulation and first two in the extra session. But the Seminoles made only one field goal in overtime; Miller’s layup that cut it to 66-64 with 6.1 seconds left.
• SMU 65, Clemson 59: Markus Kennedy had 21 points, including the clinching three-point play, and the Mustangs rallied from 13 down in the second half to beat the Tigers in the first semifinal, sending Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown into the NIT championship game in his old backyard.
Nic Moore added 13 points and Nick Russell scored 10 for SMU (27-9). Brown, the only head coach to win both an NCAA and NBA championship, now has a chance to add the National Invitation Tournament to his extensive resume.
The 73-year-old Brown, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in nearby Long Beach, is old enough to remember when the NIT was the premier college basketball tournament around. He has directed quite a turnaround in two seasons at SMU.