Michigan State advanced to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals as Steve Smith scored a career-high 34 points while leading the Spartans to a 70-63 victory over Villanova Wednesday night at Villanova, Pa.
Smith rescued the Spartans from a cold second-half start that included five- and four-minute scoring droughts.
The 6-foot 6-inch Smith scored 22 of his points in the second half and was perfect on 10 free throws as Michigan State went 18 for 18 from the line in the final 20 minutes.
“There were periods we were in a funk, but Steve pulled us up out of that,” said Spartan Coach Jud Heathcote, whose club (18-13) next plays Monday at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Doug West scored 17 points to lead Villanova, which ended its season at 18-16.
Alabama Birmingham 85, Connecticut 79--Andy Kennedy scored 22 points, and Reginald Turner added 18 to lead the Blazers to victory over defending champion Connecticut in an NIT quarterfinal game at Storrs, Conn.
The victory sent the Blazers (21-11) into the NIT semifinals Monday night.
The Huskies finished with an 18-13 record.
Kennedy, a 6-8 sophomore guard, had 18 of his points on six three-point shots. He hit two free throws with 42 seconds left that gave UAB an 81-76 lead.