NEW YORK – For Stanford, it was a second championship in four years. The Cardinal defeated Miami (FL) in a 66-64 overtime thriller in the National Invitation Tournament championship. The game at Madison Square Garden saw eight ties and five lead changes. It was a game worthy of championship classification.
Three points of emphasis:
1. Miami would not give in. Injuries and double-digit deficits were things the ‘Canes consistently adapted to during their NIT run. They trailed by 18 at Richmond in the second half before pulling out that quarterfinal matchup. Temple enjoyed an 11-point first half lead in the semis. Again, Miami found a way to get back and eventually pull out a victory. In the final they trailed by 11 at intermission. Once again, aided by sound defense, they put together a strong second half to get back into it. Miami did not pull out the victory in the championship. Still, they made the run and placed themselves in a position to win it.
2. In the end, it was Chasson Randle. The game’s leading scorer with 24 points. The NIT Most Outstanding Player. The all time leading scorer in Stanford history. Undisputed team leader, it was obvious Johnny Dawkins would put the ball in the hands of the 6-2 senior in the final minutes. With under two seconds remaining and Stanford trailing by one, Randle was fouled. He cleanly hit the two free throws that gave the Cardinal the lead and championship. What he said about those shots speaks volumes about the type of player and teammate he is.
“We were at UCLA and I was on the line with a chance to win that game,” Randle explained. “I missed and we eventually lost in two overtimes. The next day I began taking extra free throw shooting practice. I stayed and shot using that UCLA game as a motivation and hoping I could get in this position again. Once I was in this situation tonight, I was confident on making those shots.”
3. Can’t debate success. Two NIT titles in four seasons in Palo Alto. There are those who argue the school prefers to compete in the tournament with the extra initial, NCAA. As Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins pointed out, his program’s track record is sound. Those NIT titles surround a Sweet 16 NCAA appearance. As Dawkins said, “it shows when we get into these tournaments we are doing a very good job in them.” No argument here.