Gophers work overtime to beat Huskies, gain NIT finalMar 28, 2012 - 6:00 AM Minnesota escape Madison Square Garden with a 68-67 victory over Washington in the semifinals of the National Invitational Tournament.
Washington, the last No. 1 seed remaining in the tournament, went on a 12-4 run in the final 2 1/2 minutes of regulation to force overtime, but came up short in the extra session.
The sixth-seeded Golden Gophers (23-14) will face a second straight Pac-12 opponent in Thursday's final, as Stanford upended Massachusetts, 74-64, prior to Tuesday night's thriller.
"This is one of the hardest working group of kids that I have ever worked with," said Minnesota coach Tubby Smith. "They have proved us right by their attitude and their effort."
Rodney Williams finished with 18 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, which led by 12 at halftime but shot just 30 percent from the field in the second half.
Terrence Ross led the Huskies (24-11) with 21 points, while Darnell Gant added 12 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
Washington trailed, 38-26 at the break and had to play catch-up throughout the second half, a task helped by a five-minute scoring drought by the Gophers that trimmed the deficit to 53-47 with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
Ross drained a three-pointer during Washington's regulation-ending run to pull within 59-57, and after trading two free throws apiece, C.J. Wilcox came up with a steal off an errant pass and put in the tying bucket with 16.9 seconds remaining.
Hollins was short on a pullup jumper from the top of the key at the other end, and after Washington rushed by the floor, Tony Wroten fired a 30-footer that hit off the backboard and bounced off the front of the rim as time expired.
Hollins' three-point play was the only basket in the first three-plus minutes of overtime. Hollins later drove the lane for a contested bank shot to keep it a three-point contest, 68-65, with 29 seconds left.
Wilcox missed a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining, though Gant's putback made it a one-point game.
Julian Welch was fouled with 3.5 ticks showing and missed both attempts at the line. The misses hurt Washington's chances at setting up a final play, and Abdul Gaddy's heave from the other side of halfcourt fell short.
Minnesota built its double-digit lead behind a 13-3 run that Austin Hollins emphatically punctuated with a putback slam for a 31-19 cushion with under four minutes left in the first half.
"You always feel bad for your seniors, those that may not get another chance to win a championship," said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. "I thought we did a lot of good things this year."
The Huskies, the Pac-12 regular season champions, made its first NIT semifinal appearance after defeating UT Arlington, Northwestern and Oregon -- all at home...Golden Gophers played their previous three games on the road, topping La Salle, Miami-Florida and Middle Tennessee to reach their fifth NIT Final Four...Minnesota has won two NIT championships in 1993 and 1998, although the latter was vacated due to an ineligible student athlete...Minnesota outscored the Huskies in the paint, 44-28.
- MINNESOTA: 68
Final - OT
Mar 27 11:58 PM
- MINNESOTA: 61
End of Regulation
Mar 27 11:43 PM
- MINNESOTA: 38
Mar 27 10:27 PM
- MINNESOTA: 0
1st Half - 20:00
Mar 27 9:44 PM
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