Wichita State defeats Alabama for NIT title
The players flooded off the Wichita State bench, jumping together near the corner of the floor. Gregg Marshall smiled and pumped his fist. A few thousand fans dressed in yellow stood on their feet, cheering for a championship.
Good luck convincing any of them that they didn’t deserve it.
Or that they didn’t belong in a more prestigious postseason tournament.
J.T. Durley and Graham Hatch scored 12 points each to lead a balanced offense, and the fourth-seeded Shockers overwhelmed top-seeded Alabama 66-57 on Thursday night to win the NIT championship at Madison Square Garden.
Hatch was 4 for 4 from beyond the arc, including back-to-back shots in the closing minutes, as Wichita State (29-8) finished up a remarkable postseason run in style.
“We obviously, as a team, have gone through a roller coaster,” Hatch said. “We came back from those disappointments, we pulled together, and it’s just magical. It’s unbelievable.”
After getting left out of the NCAA tournament — and after hardly any critics argued on their behalf — the Shockers left little doubt they should have been selected. They beat Nebraska by 27 points, won at Virginia Tech, beat College of Charleston, then set a school record for wins in a season with a 75-44 romp over Washington State in the semifinals.
“Give them credit. They made the plays they needed to make,” said Alabama coach Anthony Grant.
Tony Mitchell had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Alabama (25-12), though he didn’t get much help. Leading scorer JaMychal Green struggled with foul trouble and finished with 12 points, and Trevor Releford and Charvez Davis had 10 each.