Gophers win NIT title 65-63 over SMU

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 4, 2014 - 10:21 AM

Richard Pitino’s first season with the Gophers ended with a national title at Madison Square Garden.

view larger photos

  

– One by one they climbed the ladder Thursday night, claiming their snippet.

For some, it was redemption. For others, it was just a party.

Two years after falling just short of its goal at Madison Square Garden, a Minnesota basketball team — composed of veterans from that game and fresh faces from this year — made good on its second chance.

Minnesota gained control of a back-and-forth match with Southern Methodist — the first team out of the NCAA tournament field — in the final seconds. Pushing to the finish on a flurry of transition shots and a couple of big shots, the Gophers claimed the 65-63 victory and then pranced to midcourt in one mass, eager to collect their “NIT Champions” T-shirts. Soon, they would cut down the nets as James Brown’s “I Got You” blared.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” senior guard Austin Hollins. “We’ve been here before, and we know what it feels like to be the other team walking off the floor, losing. We made it a point once we got into the NIT that we wanted to go win a championship.”

He finished with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting, four steals and a trophy all his own, after being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Minnesota (25-13) last won the NIT in 1998, a title that has since been vacated. The 25 victories are officially a school record for a single season.

For first-year coach Richard Pitino, it was a positive stamp on a new tenure. After his team narrowly missed the NCAA field, he notched the next best thing in front of several members of his family. The group included his father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who sat behind the bench, hollering and waving at Minnesota players throughout as if he could sub in as coach at any moment.

“This is hopefully just the beginning for me,” the younger Pitino said. “To be able to do this in Year 1 at Minnesota, in a place that I love — and they all know how much I brag about it — it was great for them to see.”

Austin Hollins gave the Gophers the lead for good against SMU (27-10) with a rainbow from the right corner: the last shot attempt of his college career, a three-pointer to put Minnesota up 63-60 with 46.1 seconds on the clock.

Junior guard Andre Hollins, Austin’s longtime partner in the backcourt, then started screaming.

“That might have been the most excited I’ve ever gotten for a shot ever in a game,” he said. “I was just yelling. Coach was trying to run a play, and I was still yelling. It was amazing, that’s how excited I was.”

Andre Hollins, who finished with 14 points, hit three of four free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal it.

The Gophers trailed 53-46 with 5:53 to go, SMU’s largest lead to that point, when Minnesota started to string together a final push.

Transition layups by DeAndre Mathieu (13 points, seven assists) and Austin Hollins were capped by Mo Walker spinning in the paint for his first basket of the game to tie the score 53-53 with 4:37 remaining, setting up another back-and-forth battle until Hollins’ clutch three-pointer.

In all, the seesaw match featured 17 lead changes and 14 ties.

“We’re a persistent team,” Mathieu said. “We worked so hard all year, we didn’t expect anything else but to just keep fighting.”

Center Elliott Eliason, who missed Tuesday’s semifinal game against Florida State because of an ankle injury, played eight minutes but was clearly hobbling. Same with forward Oto Osenieks, who surprised by coming off the bench to play 32 minutes against the Seminoles after announcing he wouldn’t play next season because of knee injuries. The junior played six minutes Thursday but was limping.

  • related content

  • NIT BOXSCORE: Gophers 65, SMU 63

    Friday April 4, 2014

  • Hartman: Gophers finished year with fabulous title run

    Friday April 4, 2014

    Led by senior Austin Hollins, the team in Richard Pitino’s first season exceeded all reasonable expectations.

  • Gophers-SMU game recap

    Friday April 4, 2014

    GAME RECAPImpact playerAustin Hollins, GophersIn the final game he would play in maroon and gold, the senior made the best...

  • Pitino had a good NIT mentor: Dad

    Thursday April 3, 2014

    Several of Richard Pitino's closest confidants were on hand to put the pressure on and take it off. And finally, to celebrate.

  • Minnesota's Andre Hollins (1) drives past SMU's Ryan Manuel (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the final of the NIT, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close