Stanford blows out Minnesota to win NIT title

Stanford blows out Minnesota to win NIT title
March 30, 2012, 1:16 am
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Sophomore guard Aaron Bright scored 15 points and dished out six assists, freshman guard Chasson Randle also scored 15 points, and sophomore guard Anthony Brown contributed 11 as the Stanford Cardinal defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 75-51 to win their first NIT Championship since the 1990-1991 season.Minnesota led 21-17 with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, but Stanford took complete control soon thereafter, outscoring Minnesota 53-19 to take a 70-40 lead late in the 2nd half.Stanford held Minnesota to a 37 percent clip from the field, out-rebounded the Golden Gophers 38-29, recorded 12 steals, and turned 22 Minnesota turnovers into 28 points.When Stanford lost to Cal in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, the Cardinal werent sure whether or not they would even be invited to the NIT.Then came a No. 3 seed in one of the four, eight-team regions, and a home game against Cleveland State.After dispatching the Vikings 76-65, Stanford played host to No. 7 seeded Illinois State only because the Redbirds traveled to Ole Miss and knocked off the No. 2 seeded Rebels in overtime.It didnt look good for the Cardinal as they trailed Illinois State 71-60 with just over eight minutes remaining. But Stanford used a 14-3 run to tie the game at 74-74, and ultimately prevailed in overtime despite the Redbirds converting on 15 of 30 from 3-point territory on the night.With the win, all that stood between the Cardinal and a trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four was a win over the Nevada Wolfpack.It was never in doubt as Stanford dismantled Nevada 84-56 to punch their ticket to New York City.The UMASS Minutemen were Stanfords semifinal opponent, a team that Stanford defeated in the semifinals of the NIT 21 years prior.The result was the same this time around, as Stanford secured their place in the championship game with a 74-64 victory.And it all culminated Thursday night with an emphatic, eye-opening, dominating victory over Minnesota in the worlds most famous arena.At one point early in the season, Stanford was 16-3, tied for first-place in the Pac-12 at 5-1, and seemingly a lock for the NCAA Tournament.However, the Cardinal blew a 13-point second half at Washington State and fell to the Cougars 81-69.Stanford never recovered, as they lost five of their next six, and ultimately finished in seventh-place in the Pac-12 at 10-8.To make the NCAA Tournament, Stanford needed to win four games in four nights and capture the Pac-12 Tournament title. It was not in the cards.But for this young, talented team, winning the NIT Championship could be a springboard to bigger and better things next season.Stanford does lose four seniors to graduation, but will return five of its top six scorers, including freshman sensation Randle.West Virginia won the NIT in 2007, and reached the Sweet 16 in 2008.Ohio State won the NIT in 2008, and reached the NCAA Tournament in 2009.Wichita State won the NIT in 2011, and was a No. 5 seed in this years NCAA Tournament.Gaining experience and learning what it takes to win a championship, albeit not the ultimate prize that is the NCAA Tournament title, is invaluable experience.Expect big things from Johnny Dawkins and the Stanford Cardinal in 2012-2013.

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