NEW YORK — With his famous father sitting behind him in the Madison Square Garden stands, 32-year-old Minnesota coach Richard Pitino guided the Golden Gophers to a 67-64 overtime win over Florida State in the semifinals of the NIT on Tuesday.
Minnesota (24-13) faces SMU in Thursday’s final. The Mustangs (27-9) defeated Clemson 65-59 in the other semifinal.
Guards Austin Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu led the Golden Gophers with 17 points apiece.
Florida State (22-14) received 16 points apiece from forward Okaro White and guard Ian Miller. Seminoles sophomore guard Aaron Thomas, who was averaging 23 points in the NIT, was held to three points in the semifinal before fouling out with 19 seconds to play. He made just one of eight shots from the floor and committed five turnovers.
Rick Pitino, whose Louisville team lost in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 to Kentucky, sat calmly until late in regulation, watching his son take the Golden Gophers to their second NIT final in three years. Minnesota lost to Stanford 75-51 in the 2012 championship game. The Golden Gophers won the NIT in 1993 and 1998, but the latter title was vacated due to a violation of NCAA rules.
Free-throw shooting won it for Minnesota in the overtime, as the teams shot a combined 1-for-11 from the floor. Gophers forward Maurice Walker scored six of his team’s seven points in OT from the line.
Florida State guard Devon Bookert’s contested 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left sent the game into overtime at 60-60. Bookert scored the Seminoles’ last seven points in regulation in the last 21 seconds.
The Golden Gophers had a golden opportunity to put the game away, but reserve guard Malik Smith missed two free throws with 0.8 seconds left and Minnesota clinging to a 60-57 lead.
The Seminoles took their first lead of the game, 51-50, on two free throws from White with 4:10 to play. That lead lasted only 25 seconds, as it was erased on layups by Gophers forward Oto Osenieks and guard Andre Hollins, giving Minnesota a 54-51 lead with 3:17 to play.
Minnesota led the entire first half and took a 30-20 advantage into halftime. The Golden Gophers’ biggest lead was 28-13 after an 11-0 run.
Minnesota took advantage of 11 first-half Florida State turnovers, scoring 18 points off the mistakes.
NOTES: Florida State G Aaron Thomas scored in double figures in 16 consecutive games before he was limited to three points Tuesday. … Minnesota leads the series with Florida State 6-4. … Florida State is the third-winningest team in the ACC over the past nine seasons, and it made its ninth consecutive postseason appearance. … Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton is the only coach in college basketball history to be named as Coach of the Year in both the ACC (2009 and 2012) and the Big East (1995 and 1999 with Miami). … Minnesota followed its last two NIT trips with berths in the NCAA Tournament in the next season.
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