NIT First Round Wrap-Up
by Phil Kasiecki
NIT first round action concluded on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with the lone game on Saturday being played due to travel issues. Thursday night’s games featured mostly blowouts, with one game that came down to the end.
All of Friday night’s games all went to mid-majors over high-majors, suggesting that the mid-majors are trying to make a statement in the NIT. Another big trend is that teams shooting better from the field are winning most games, as most of the games have had low turnover totals or differentials, and few close games have featured a team getting many second chances to win or stay close despite poor shooting. Another fundamental, free throw shooting, has proven to be a key in a few games as well.
In the lone thriller of Thursday night, Yale picked up its first postseason win by holding off Rutgers, 67-65 in an ugly game in Piscataway. The Bulldogs led for most of the second half, but needed a late steal by Edwin Draughan (team-high 15 points) to seal the game. Both teams had balanced scoring, as four players on each team reached double figures.
In the most highly anticipated matchup of the first round, Butler pulled away from Bowling Green 81-69 in a game that featured a lot of offense. Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field, and they combined for 19 turnovers. Butler had just six of those turnovers, and they got the free throw line more en route to the victory. The win spoiled a career-high 31 points for Bowling Green’s Len Matela. Ryan Hainje led the victors with 28 points.
On Friday, Ball State closed the game against St. Joseph’s with a 24-6 run in the final 10:18 to knock off the Hawks by a 76-54 margin. The Cardinals were red hot from downtown, making 11 of 23 three-pointers, while they held the Hawks to 31.3% shooting from the field. The Hawks finished a disappointing season with a home loss and losses in three of their final four games. Ball State, meanwhile, moved on to play LSU in the second round.
Tennessee Tech continued to win, knocking off Dayton with better execution in the final minutes, 68-59. The Golden Eagles shot better from the field and were automatic at the free throw line, including the final minutes when they iced the game after breaking a tie at 55. They made five of six from the charity stripe in the final minute. Next up for Tennessee Tech is Yale.
In the final game of Friday night, Louisiana Tech shot 59 percent from the field and held Vanderbilt to just 39 percent shooting en route to an 83-68 win over the Commodores. They’ll need to repeat this effort in the second round against a Villanova team that is capable of shooting the lights out. Louisiana Tech also dominated Vanderbilt on the backboards.
On Saturday night, Richmond used hot shooting to knock off Montana State, 63-48. The Spiders shot nearly 54% from the field while holding the Bobcats to just 40% shooting from the field. They Spiders got 21 points from Reggie Brown in advancing to the second round for the second year in a row, facing Minnesota. This game was supposed to be played Friday night, but Montana State was not able to make travel arrangements.
We’ll have a preview of the Second Round matchups tomorrow.