NEW YORK (AP) — Top five teams Kansas and Tennessee were tested in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals. Both passed and will face off in the championship game Friday night.
Dedric Lawson had a double-double with 26 points and 12 rebounds to lead No. 2 Kansas to a 77-68 win over Marquette in the second semifinal of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Wednesday night. Earlier in the evening, No. 5 Tennessee topped Louisville 92-81.
Marquette (3-1) led by as many as 12 in the first half before taking a 47-38 lead into the break. Then came the Jayhawks run.
“Coach got on us,” said Dedric Lawson of Bill Self’s halftime message. “I won’t tell you the word he used, but coach got on us about being tough and going out there and defending our man. We had a couple adjustments in the second half and that helped us out in the 22-0 run.”
Marquette went 0-of-10 from the field to start second half as Kansas (4-0) retook the lead in commanding fashion. The Golden Eagles finally scored a basket nine minutes into the second half on Joey Hauser’s 3-pointer to make it 60-50. His brother, Sam Hauser, led the Golden Eagles with 20 points while Markus Howard had 18 points
“It definitely brought some awareness for us to see what we can do defensively, because that was a great offensive team that had great shooters, a great point guard and a great wing that could make shots,” Lawson said. “I think that was a pretty good offensive team, so to hold them to all those stops was pretty good for us going forward.”
The Jayhawks got 16 points from Lagerald Vick while Devon Dotson chipped in with 10 points, four assists and three steals.
In the first semifinal, Grant Williams scored 24 points and the Vols had five players in double figures to beat the Cardinals.
Admiral Schofield added 20 points for the Vols (4-0), who shot 54 percent from the field. The win was the 664th of Tennessee coach Rick Barnes’ career. It moved him past John Wooden on the all-time Division I wins list.
“It means I’ve been around a while,” Barnes said.
Trailing 77-70 with 6:51 left, Louisville coach Chris Mack got called for a technical foul when he didn’t like an over-the-back call on Dwayne Sutton. The Cardinals could never recover, trailing by as many as 15.
“I complained during the game, so I’m not going to again complain now,” Mack said. “I thought when Dwayne got the ball it was completely clean. It’s basketball. I shouldn’t have received the technical. That’s my fault. It’ll be the last one of this year.”
Jordan Nwora had 23 points and 10 assists to lead Louisville (3-1).
While Kansas could vault itself into the No. 1 ranking with a win after No. 1 Duke’s loss to No. 3 Gonzaga, Self sees it as litmus test for a team ripe with underclassmen.
“We need this game more than Tennessee needs this game, because we’re young and we’re not as tough as we need to be and we’ll have to tough on Friday with the way they play or they could certainly make us look really bad, so I think it’s a great game for our guys to see where we’re at without question.”
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