Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

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Penn State tops Utah to win NIT championship

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NEW YORK -- Flavor Flav had his red cap flipped backward as he pulled out his iPhone on the Madison Square Garden court. Flav held the camera steady and recorded cousin Shep Garner clip the final strands of the championship net and wave it toward the Penn State die-hards.

Flav's T-shirt at the NIT said it all for the Nittany Lions: Believe the hype!

Garner hit the 3-pointer that brought rapper and reality star Flavor Flav to his feet and helped send Penn State on its way to an NIT title in an 82-66 victory over Utah on Thursday night.

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (26-13) also knocked off No. 1 seed Notre Dame in the tournament en route to winning their first NIT title since 2009.

"This means the whole world to me right now ," Flavor Flav said.

They were pretty pumped in Happy Valley, too.

"I think we set the standard," Garner said. "We preach defense and rebounding, but now we have something we can always go to. We won something. We're champions."

Flavor Flav, member of the seminal `80s rap group Public Enemy, sang along to "Fight the Power" as it blasted in the Garden and had the PSU student section chanting "Flav! Flav! Flav!" as the Nittany Lions pulled away for a program-defining championship under coach Pat Chambers.

Lamar Stevens scored 28 points, Josh Reaves had 18 and Tony Carr had 15 points and 14 assists for Penn State.

Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center has a long-standing reputation as one of the dreariest arenas in college basketball. Penn State fans, from rappers to silver-haired alumni, packed the Garden all the way to the last row of the upper deck.

Penn State football coach James Franklin, who led the program to a Pinstripe Bowl victory in 2014, was in the house. Flavor Flav stole the show a few rows behind the PSU bench. Wearing a T-shirt that read "33 Shep Garner," Flavor Flav danced all night in his seat. Flavor Flav popped his T-shirt and raised the roof in the same arena where Public Enemy once tore down the house.

"I think we've proven to teams across the country that Penn State basketball is here to stay," Chambers said.

The clutch moment came in the third quarter when Garner -- who became Penn State's career 3-point leader in the tournament run -- hit a 3 for his first basket of the game and a 49-41 lead that had the fans going wild.

"To see my cousin break records, win trophies, all that, he deserves it," Flavor Flav said. "The whole team deserves it."

Reaves hit a crashing layup on a three-point play that stretched the lead to 11 and Stevens wagged his tongue toward the PSU fans on a jumper that helped blow open the game.

Flavor Flav raised an arm in the air when Garner sank a 3 early in the fourth for a 68-49 edge that all but put this one away.

The final minutes certainly put some flava in your ear -- half the MSG crowd chanted "We Are!" and the other half bellowed "Penn State!"

Yeah, boy!

Sedrick Barefield hit six 3s and scored 22 points for second-seeded Utah (23-12).

"You're always kind of watching the NIT and maybe you think of it as the consolation prize or whatever," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "They have no idea how cool this was for us."

Big picture
Utah: David Collette, Justin Bibbins and Tyler Rawson are among the seniors moving on. ... Bibbins scored 15 points.

Penn State: Stevens reached 1,000 career points was named most outstanding player. ... Chambers, a former assistant coach under Jay Wright at Villanova, took over in 2011 and has struggled to find any kind of regular success. The Nittany Lions have never made the NCAA Tournament under Chambers and they'll have just their second winning record in seven seasons. But Penn State's 26 wins are second-highest in program history. The Nittany Lions won a record 27 games in 2008-09.

Big crowd
The 11,175 fans at MSG were the most for an NIT final since 2005.

"And you say we're a football school," Chambers cracked.

Something different
The NIT was a bit of a mad scientist in the college basketball lab. The game featured four 10-minute quarters. The tournament also implemented the FIBA 3-point line (22 feet, 1.75 inches), NBA-width lane of 16 inches, and a 20-second shot clock following offensive rebounds.

No. 4 Villanova dismantles No. 12 Gonzaga in Jimmy V Classic

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No. 4 Villanova dismantles No. 12 Gonzaga in Jimmy V Classic

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NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges hit Gonzaga with a dunk that rocked the Garden and followed with a block that sapped the Zags' spirit.

Against an NCAA title game finalist and in prime time on basketball's biggest stage, Bridges had his coming out performance as one of the top players in the nation.

Just check the replay of that sequence for confirmation.

"I just saw a lane and tried to go up and be strong," Bridges said.

Bridges hit five 3s and scored a career-high 28 points to lead No. 4 Villanova to an 88-72 victory over No. 12 Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (9-0) flexed their muscle on familiar turf and proved again they are again national championship contenders in their first real test of the season.

Bridges, a 6-foot-7 junior guard, put on a show in front of scores of NBA scouts and flashed a lottery-pick worthy game. His defining moment came in the second half: Bridges slashed the lane and unleashed a monster right-handed dunk over 6-11 center Jacob Larsen. Gonzaga's Josh Perkins tried the same move on the next set only to have Bridges swat the ball out of bounds with a block that had the Nova fans that filled MSG roaring on each replay.

"Ever since my freshman year, I've laid the ball up a lot and coaches, the seniors, they used to get on me for that," Bridges said.

Not anymore.

Bridges made 8 of 14 shots in the first meeting between two programs that have ranked among the best over the last 15 years. Villanova won the 2016 national championship and the Zags lost the 2017 title game to North Carolina.

Bridges was such a dominant presence, he even startled one Zag into a turnover when he heard footsteps on a fastbreak.

"He probably could have done more of this last year," coach Jay Wright said. "He's the leader. He's the captain. So he's playing with a lot more freedom. Aggressiveness, as he says."

Zach Norvell Jr. led Gonzaga (7-2) with 22 points and Perkins had 16.

"They put it on us pretty good," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

Bridges cut off the Bulldogs each time they made a small run. The Zags inched to seven early in the second half and Bridges connected on a 3. He came up with a tough bucket inside and drew a foul on one possession and followed with a 3 on the next to make it a 10-game game.

Bridges dunk-and-block in front of the scouts destroyed whatever mojo Gonzaga had left and the Wildcats won for an NCAA-best 109th time since 2014.

"We don't care who's out in the crowd. We play for each other," Bridges said

The Wildcats played every bit like a national championship favorite in a first half where they picked apart the Zags. Bridges had 12 points, Phil Booth had 11 of his 20 points and the Wildcats hit six 3s to build a 43-30 lead.

Villanova is more than a few NBA-ready scorers carrying the offense. Eric Paschall missed both of his shots in the half but it was his kickout passes on consecutive possessions that led to 3s from Booth and Bridges. Donte DiVincenzo made it three straight 3s that brought the Nova fans to their feet.

Booth, who took a medical redshirt last season, proved his twice surgically repaired left knee was fine on a high-flying dunk and even the players got loud at the Garden: Villanova's deep reserves bolted from the bench and bellowed "Charge! Charge! Charge!" late in the half and sure enough the foul was called on Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura.

The Wildcats made the short 105-mile trip compared to nearly 2,600 miles for the Zags and had the decided fan support at MSG. The Wildcats, a regular at the Garden in the Big East Tournament, could hoist that trophy in front of the faithful again in March in New York.

Big picture
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs lost their second game after losing just one in the regular season on the way to the title game. The Bulldogs were picked this year to finish second in the WCC, behind archrival Saint Mary's.

Villanova: The Wildcats followed a school-record 19 3s in their last game against Saint Joseph's with 10 against Gonzaga. What's it going to take to lose? "Us relaxing," Bridges said.

D-Zag-ster
The Wildcats shot 52 percent from the field and became the first team in 65 games to shoot better than 50 percent against the Zags. Gonzaga starters Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson fouled out.

Up next
Gonzaga: The Zags play against Pac 12 Washington on Sunday.

Villanova: The Wildcats look to extend their dominance in Philadelphia's city series Sunday against La Salle.

Temple pounds South Carolina at MSG behind Quinton Rose's 24 points

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Temple pounds South Carolina at MSG behind Quinton Rose's 24 points

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NEW YORK -- When it was over, the question posed to Fran Dunphy was simple:

Was this his team's best performance so far this season?

His answer, though, could and maybe should concern future opponents.

"I don't know that I can say that," Dunphy said after Temple's 76-60 rout of South Carolina on Thursday night in the second game of the Under Armour Reunion at Madison Square Garden.

Quinton Rose scored a season-high 24 points to lead Temple, which improved to 4-1 with its fourth win in its last five games. Damion Moore finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Obi Enechionyia added 15 points for the Owls.

"(I'm) proud of our guys," Dunphy said.

Pride was not the emotion Dunphy's counterpart, Frank Martin, felt after the 16-point loss.

"We just got thoroughly outplayed," said Martin, who later added, "Guys have to understand how to play in college," after South Carolina dropped to 5-2. The game was South Carolina's first at Madison Square Garden since Sweet 16 and Elite Eight wins over Baylor and Florida, respectively, last March.

"This is good for us," Martin said. "We've got a young team. We've got to learn. We've got to learn."

David Beatty led the Gamecocks with 13 points. Maik Kotsar scored 12 and Justin Minaya tallied 11.

Leading 38-27 at the start of the second half, Temple outscored the Gamecocks 16-12 in the first 8:20 to extend its lead 54-39. The Owls started the second half with two Enechionyia dunks and a jumper, a Moore jam and jumper, and eight points from Rose.

"I was going out there trying to be aggressive," said Rose, who praised Moore's play. "It makes it a thousand times easier. The guy on defense has to make a decision earlier. If (Moore has) it going (the defender) knows I'm going to dump it off, but he also has to step up and stop me from scoring."

The lead grew to 60-41 after Moore's putback and layup on consecutive possessions. Following the layup with 9:39 left, Martin called time out. It did not matter as Temple pushed its lead to 23, 66-43, after Rose's layup at 6:27.

"We kept missing shots and then turnovers," Martin said. "We had 17 turnovers (and) 12 of them were steals. You give Temple 12 steals (and) they're coming at you in the open court. They're going to make you pay almost every time.

"We struggled to guard the dribble. We guarded the 3-point line. We struggled to guard the dribble and then our bigs did a lot of ball watching. We just didn't play well."

Big picture
South Carolina: The Gamecocks entered the game with their bench having a plus-34 scoring differential over the course of the season. But that number is somewhat misleading. South Carolina's bench outscored its opponents by a combined plus-35 margin in the first two games of the season, only for it to be minus-one in the next four. Against Temple, South Carolina's bench was outscored 25-21.

Temple: The Owls' modus operandi was simple: Get it inside. And oftentimes simple works. To wit: In Temple's 16-point win, 38 of its 76 points were scored in the paint.

Notable
South Carolina: Thursday night's game was the Gamecocks' fifth straight on the road, and sixth out of seven away from home overall.

Temple: The Owls improved to 8-7 all-time against South Carolina. The game was the first between the programs since Dec. 22, 2005.

Up next
South Carolina: Hosts the University of Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon.

Temple: Travels to George Washington Sunday afternoon.