George Washington Wins The 2016 NIT Championship • Latino Sports

College Hoops

George Washington Wins The 2016 NIT Championship

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New York, NY – Madison Square Garden was again the site for the championship of the National Invitation Tournament.

On Thursday night, the Valparaiso Crusaders (30-7) and the George Washington Colonials (28-10) met for the important title at the world’s most famous basketball venue. The tourney, which began in 1938, was at one time considered the most prestigious in the nation, but currently thought of as far less important than the NCAA tourney.

Each of the two outstanding teams won four contests in the tourney to reach the final. The Crusaders’ 30 victories are the highest number in the school’s history. The victory over BYU on Tuesday was only the third visit of the team to MSG. The other two were contests with Long Island University in the 1940’s.

Head coach Bryce Drew commented upon the excitement of the rare visit to New York City for his players, “A lot of our guys, they have not been to Manhattan before, so being here has been a great experience. Getting an opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden [is] something they will always remember.”

Tuesday’s win over San Diego State was GW’s sixth game in the current MSG. It had also played five contests MSG III on 50th Street. Thursday’s 76-60 win for the championship gave GW its highest seasonal win total in its history. The school’s basketball team is far less a stranger to NYC than its opponent in the final.

It visits its Atlantic-10 foe, Fordham, regularly in the Bronx and the A-10 has scheduled its championship in March at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn during the past several seasons. Patricio Garino, a senior at George Washington, remarked about his team’s comfort in playing in New York, “In New York and Brooklyn we feel like we’re at home with that fan base.” The proximity of New York and Washington D.C. is another reason many of the team’s rooters can watch them play in New York City.

Although the Crusaders led for only 46 seconds in the first half, the period concluded with the Colonials ahead by only one point, 32-31. After Valpo scored the first basket of the contest, GW went on a 21-10 scoring run to take its largest lead of the half, 21-12 at 9:32. The Crusaders immediately followed with an 11-2 run to tie the score at 24 with 5:23 remaining in the period.

The Colonials began the second half with a 15-4 scoring advantage to take its first double digit lead, 47-35 12:26.  GW’s advantage never slipped back to single figures again as the winners shot 55% from the floor while holding the Crusaders to a 35.3%. The victors netted 18 shots from the charity stripe while Valpo only scored one point on a free throw in the second half.

Drew gave full credit to the winners for the excellent game they played, “Thought George Washington probably played one of the better games they have all year. Shot the ball very well from the outside and from the free throw line and we just seemed like we couldn’t get a rhythm going for the most part.” The 16 point margin was the worst loss suffered by Valpariso this season.

Several of the Washington seniors who scored in double figures and were chosen to the All-Tournament Team gave credit to their team’s defense for achieving the victory. Joe McDonald said, “It started with the defense.” He also credited the lack of turnovers [8], “We took care of the basketball.”Garino commented, “Our defense clicked. We were calm and confident in the second half.” Keith Larsen concurred with his teammates, “Our defense was the key to the second half.”

Tyler Cavanaugh, a junior, was selected as the 2016 NIT Most Outstanding Player. The 6-9 junior from Syracuse scored 97 points in the fiver tournament contests and grabbed 42 rebounds. The economics major was a transfer from Wake Forest.

The winning coach, Mike Lonergan, expressed his pleasure that Cavanaugh is on his team and will be returning next year, “I recruited Tyler as hard as anyone I’ve ever recruited.”

About Howard Goldin

Howard Goldin is a 72-year-old Bronx native whose passion for sports is evidenced by his 15 years of sports writing with Latino Sports. A former English instructor at Monroe College, his love for sports started with baseball and have expanded since. If there's a sport or a community event, Howard will be in attendance covering it.

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