Stanford Cruises to NIT Championship
NEW YORK – Stanford’s young guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright each scored 15 points, and the Cardinal routed Minnesota 75-51 to win the NIT title Thursday night.
Stanford forced two turnovers to open the second half to take a 10-point lead and stayed up by double figures the rest of the way. The Golden Gophers turned it over 22 times on the night.
The third-seeded Cardinal (26-11) won their second NIT title, the first coming in 1991.
The final minutes turned into a celebration of 3-pointers and fast-break layups for Stanford, players on the bench jumping up to cheer on nearly every possession.
Both teams got off to a hot start, but then the Cardinal turned up the defensive pressure, and when the Golden Gophers (23-15) got good looks, they couldn’t make them. Sixth-seeded Minnesota missed 16 of its last 19 shots in the first half.
The Cardinal scored 12 straight points to go ahead 29-21 with 4 minutes left before the break. Bright had six points, including a four-point play, and an assist during the run, and Stanford drew three charges.
Bright, a sophomore, had six assists and earned most outstanding player honors. Randle, a freshman, was 3 for 5 on 3-pointers.
In front of a sparse crowd at Madison Square Garden, the atmosphere on the court had some sizzle. Minnesota’s Elliott Eliason and Stanford’s Dwight Powell had to be separated after getting tangled up on a held ball late in the first half, and the two exchanged words again in the second. Powell was later called for a contact technical foul when the Gophers’ Rodney Williams hit the floor face first after being whistled for fouling the Cardinal forward.
Williams stayed on the court for several minutes before walking off under his own power and returned to the game soon thereafter.
It was the fourth foul on Williams, who at that juncture had scored 12 of Minnesota’s 30 points. Williams, who made the all-tournament team, finished with 12 to lead the Gophers.
Powell hit both of his free throws, and in a sign of how the game was going for the Golden Gophers, Andre Hollins, a 92.2-percent foul shooter, made only one of two, and Stanford led 47-31 with less than 12 minutes left. Hollins, a freshman, also made the all-tournament team.
The injury-riddled Golden Gophers had made a spirited run to the NIT title game. But they hit just three of their 13 3-point attempts Thursday and allowed the Cardinal to shoot 57.1 percent in the second half.
Stanford is just the second team to play in the final of the preseason and postseason NIT in the same season. In the NIT Season Tip-Off in November, the Cardinal let a late lead slip away against Syracuse. Minnesota isn’t exactly the Orange, but this time Stanford never looked back after going ahead.
Minnesota had won the first four meetings in the series, though the teams hadn’t played since 1975.