The Stanford Cardinal won the NIT Championship on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, routing the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 75-51.
This game was competitive early, as the style of play was very quick and the referees let them play on by not calling many fouls.
Minnesota had a 21-17 lead on a Julian Welch layup with 8:57 left in the first half. Minnesota did not get another basket for 12 minutes and 58 seconds when Austin Hollins got a layup with 16:09 left in the second half.
At that point, Stanford had opened up a 15-point lead at 42-27. It turned into a 20-point lead at the 10:48 mark when Aaron Bright hit two free throws to make it 51-31.
This is when the game really started to drag and Stanford took a gigantic 30-point lead, at 70-40, on a jumper by Anthony Brown with 3:50 left.
A wild moment would soon follow as Minnesota Head Coach Tubby Smith employed the full-court press. A fan in the thin crowd made himself heard, screaming out, “Now you play defense, Tubby!” A woman sitting behind Smith at courtside responded to him and told him to shut up.
Stanford’s Aaron Bright won the NIT’s Most Oustanding Player Award, voted on by the media. Bright had 15 points on 4-for-7 shooting, knocked in two 3-pointers, and had six assists. In their semifinal win on Tuesday night against UMass, Bright had 13 points and three assists.
Stanford also was led by Chasson Randle, who scored 15 points (6-11, 3-5 on 3-pointers), and Anthony Brown scored 11 points and had six rebounds.
Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins said, “Just really proud of our guys. This season has been a little bit of a roller coaster ride for us. We started off, you know, so strong, battled through some adversity in the middle and then we ended as strong as we ever could have imagined. But our kids, you know, saved their best for last. I thought they played a terrific game from start to finish tonight, and I’m just very proud of them.”
On whether Stanford played its best basketball now, Aaron Bright said, “I do. I think defensively we are looking good. Our guys were doing a great job. We did a pretty good job tonight, and offensively, we are just making connecting plays. I think all of us are just playing our games, and you know, we are just aggressive. Coach is always talking about being the aggressor, and we did that this tournament. So it was good.”
Minnesota Head Coach Tubby Smith said, “First, want to commend and congratulate the Stanford Cardinal. They had them ready to play…I thought they, again, made some shots and were on, and we weren’t. And that’s what can happen to you.”
Of his team, Smith said: “Really proud of how our kids have played, especially in the postseason and in the NIT Tournament. It’s been a wonderful experience, and it’s certainly been exciting to be here in Madison Square Garden and playing in the NIT.”