It has been 41 years since St. Louis last won this tournament title, and thanks largely to the play of Monroe Douglass Monday night, the Billikens will get a chance to win another.
Douglass scored 25 points, nearly twice his season average, as St. Louis beat Michigan State, 74-64, to advance to the championship game against St. John’s Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“The shoe has been on the other foot. We’ve been behind in most of our games and had to come back to win,” St. Louis Coach Rich Grawer said. “We put on a different set of shoes and came away in good shape.”
The Billikens (27-9), who won the NIT in 1948, opened a 34-15 lead with 3:52 left in the first half as Douglass scored 11 points and Charles Newberry eight. The Spartans never got closer than six after that.
St. John’s 76, Alabama Birmingham 65--Forward Jayson Williams had 17 points and 11 rebounds and freshman Malik Sealy scored 17 points as the Redmen beat the Blazers to reach the final.
UAB, which trailed by 17 in the first half, got within 12 at halftime and then closed the gap to 42-36 with 11:14 left in the game.
Jason Buchanan, one of three freshmen in the St. John’s starting lineup, made a three-point play and a fast-break layup to help the Redmen extend the margin to 49-38, but the Blazers once again got within six, 50-44.
With sophomore reserve Billy Singleton scoring all seven of his points in the next three minutes, St. John’s increased its lead to 59-47 with 3:55 left and held on to win.