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Texas A&M beats Washington St to reach NIT title game at MSG

March 30, 2022 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — Quenton Jackson scored 18 points and Texas A&M advanced to the NIT championship game Tuesday night with a 72-56 rout of Washington State.

Henry Coleman III had 16 points and Manny Obaseki added 14 for the Aggies (27-12) in the second semifinal at Madison Square Garden. They will play for the title Thursday night against Xavier, an 84-77 winner over St. Bonaventure in the doubleheader opener.

Texas A&M was left out of the NCAA Tournament despite reaching the SEC final, where it lost to Tennessee. It was a surprising snub by the selection committee that drew criticism from Aggies coach Buzz Williams and others.

But the Aggies have rebounded from that disappointment and made the most of their opportunity for a consolation prize in the NIT.

“We’re locked in,” Jackson said. “We’re in a great groove right now as a team. The coaching staff has done a great job with the scouting reports and all of that, working overtime. We are overly prepared for whatever is to come next as players. We just have to go out there and play with confidence and stick to the script, and we’ll be all right.”

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Tyrell Roberts led Washington State (22-15) with 14 points. He was the only Cougars player to score double figures. Efe Abogidi had nine points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.

“We ran into a better team tonight,” Washington State coach Kyle Smith said. “We haven’t really played anyone like them this year, but that was good for us moving forward.”

Texas A&M got the ball inside and outscored Washington State 40-30 in the second half to pull away. Even through the Aggies missed 12 of 14 attempts from 3-point range, they shot 48.5% (32 for 66) from the field.

“The ball was falling,” Jackson said. “We were able to run a bit in transition and get out. But most of all we played for each other and we played with energy, and the shots happened to fall. Every shot we shoot we expect to make.”

Texas A&M held the Cougars to 34.5% shooting (19 for 55), including 24.1% from behind the arc (7 for 29). Washington State was only 11 for 20 at the foul line, too.

Washington State committed 17 turnovers to just eight for Texas A&M.

“They just went on a run,” Roberts said, “and we weren’t taking care of the ball.”

Jackson added six assists, four rebounds and two steals. He was 7 of 9 from the floor.

Coleman shot 8 for 12 in 23 minutes and pulled down six rebounds.

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In the end of a college basketball tradition that dates to 1938, the championship game Thursday night will mark the NIT’s last one at Madison Square Garden for at least a couple of years.

MSG won’t host the semifinals and finals in 2023 and 2024, the NIT announced Monday, saying it has started a bid process to find new sites for those years and an announcement is expected this spring.

The NCAA bought the rights to the NIT in 2005.

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“The NIT has had a rich history in New York City and we appreciate the invaluable partnership with Madison Square Garden,” NCAA Senior Vice President Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “This has not been an easy decision to make, but it is a mutual one.”

Gavitt added that “2023 and 2024 offer exciting possibilities for hosting the tournament in a new city and venue that will provide the teams with an outstanding experience.”

College basketball’s oldest major postseason tournament — and once its most prestigious — the National Invitation Tournament has crowned 82 champions at Madison Square Garden and played there annually since the event’s inception in 1938.

Last year was an exception, when the whole tournament was played in North Texas with a reduced field because of the coronavirus pandemic that also forced cancellation of the 2020 edition.

Nothing has been determined beyond 2024.

“The postseason NIT has been a great partner of ours over the years with a dedicated fanbase, and we wish them all the best,” said Joel Fisher, executive vice president, MSG Marquee Events.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25