Friday afternoon’s championship game of the NIT Season Tipoff at Madison Square Garden in New York City was an exaggerated repeat of Wednesday’s semifinal for #5 Syracuse. Instead of two-thirds of a game that looked like a loss, the Orange (6-0) played poor basketball for almost 35 minutes, then came roaring back for a 69-63 victory over Stanford. SU overcame a seven-point deficit in the game’s final five minutes to defeat the Cardinal (5-1), powered by Tournament Most Valuable Player Kris Joseph, who scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in that span. Joseph averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two games at the Garden to receive the honor.
Syracuse had the opening basket of the contest, then gradually extended their lead to 6-2. However, the Orange gave up the next eight points of the game to fall behind by four, only to rebound with seven straight points to take a 13-10 lead with just under nine minutes left in the half. Stanford clawed back into the game and took the lead, which led to the two squads trading buckets in the waning minutes of the half. The Cardinal eventually extended their lead to four, but SU scored the final three points of the half to trail 25-24 at the break.
A pair of jump shots early in the second half gave Syracuse the lead again, but Stanford came back, eventually swapping the lead with the Orange a half dozen times. With the Cardinal up by four, SU got a pair of baskets to tie the game at 43-43 with just over eight minutes elapsed. Stanford took off after almost immediately after, using a 9-2 run to take their biggest lead at 55-47 with less than seven minutes on the clock. The Orange quickly got within four, but a Cardinal three put them up 58-51 with 6:10 remaining. Syracuse got a three-point shot to close within four points, but a pair of Stanford free throws put them back up by a half dozen. The Orange responded by ripping off a 10-0 run to take a 64-60 lead with just over two minutes on the clock. Stanford got a three-pointer to erase most of the deficit, but SU closed the game with the final five points to seal the victory.
Only six players put the ball through the hoop in the game for SU, but five of them finished in double figures. Joseph added nine rebounds to his 18 points, falling one rebound shy of his second straight double-double. Scoop Jardine had ten of his 14 points after intermission and his backcourt mate Brandon Triche added 11 points in the game. C. J. Fair and Dion Waiters each chipped in with ten points as reserves and were both named to the All-Tournament Team.
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