NEW YORK – David Skara sank the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 20 seconds left and Valparaiso held off BYU 72-70 on Tuesday night to reach the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament.
Skara came off the bench to score a season-high 15 points, none bigger than his jumper that gave the top-seeded Crusaders (30-6) a 71-68 advantage after they had squandered a 16-point cushion.
Alec Peters also had 15 points for the Crusaders, who will play for the title Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against George Washington.
Kyle Collinsworth paced the Cougars (26-11) with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in his final college game. Nick Emery scored 18 and Chase Fischer added 16.
With the Cougars trailing by three, Fischer had his shot blocked, but scored on a putback with 7.4 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one.
Shane Hammink broke free behind the defense on the ensuing inbounds play, but fumbled the ball and was quickly fouled near the basket. He made one of two free throws with 4.7 seconds to go, then blocked Fischer’s long 3-point try at the buzzer to seal it.
Keith Carter had 13 points for the Crusaders, who were playing in the NIT semifinals for the first time. Hammink and Darien Walker each added 10.
After trailing by 16 early in the second half, BYU took its first lead at 64-63 when Collinsworth converted a three-point play with 4:26 remaining, charging up a loud contingent of Cougars fans.
BYU went ahead again, 68-67, when Kyle Davis scored inside off a pass from Collinsworth with 1:18 left. Hammink hit one of two free throws a few seconds later to tie it. Collinsworth airballed a pull-up jumper, setting the stage for Skara.
Valparaiso opened a 15-point lead, its largest of the first half, with under a minute to go and went to the break up 44-30 after Hammink soared through the lane for a dunk.
George Washington 65, San Diego State 46: Tyler Cavanaugh had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Colonials (27-10) advanced to the championship game by throttling the Aztecs (28-10).
Patricio Garino added 13 points for the fourth-seeded Colonials, who matched the school record for wins in a season and won in their first visit to Madison Square Garden since 2001.
Dakarai Allen scored 13 points for No. 2 seed San Diego State, which struggled to score at times throughout the season and had a dreadful shooting night at the worst time.
The Aztecs fell behind by double digits late in the first half and shot 28.8 percent from the field, including 3 for 22 from 3-point range.
It was another big game for Cavanaugh, who came in averaging 21.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in the first three games of this tournament.
Joe McDonald had nine points and six assists for the Colonials, who start players from Japan, Argentina and Denmark. They beat then-No. 6 Virginia back in November and showed no jitters whatsoever in their first trip to the NIT semifinals.
While it was George Washington’s first game at the Garden in 15 years, the team did play four games in New York City this season – all at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
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