Jayson Williams made 11 of his first 12 shots and had 28 points and a career-high 18 rebounds to lead St. John’s to a record fifth National Invitation Tournament title as the Redmen beat the University of St. Louis, 73-65, Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Williams, named most valuable player of the tournament, was scoreless in the first 10 minutes, but after that he continually got free inside against the smaller Billikens, who won their only NIT title in 1948.
St. John’s (20-13), which shared the record of four NIT titles with Bradley, was making its 25th tournament appearance after a disappointing season in which the Redmen finished eighth in the nine-team Big East Conference.
St. Louis (27-10) got 21 points from Roland Gray but had foul problems at both ends of the court. The Billikens missed 12 of their first 17 free throws, and Monroe Douglass, who scored 25 points in a semifinal victory over Michigan State, missed most of the game with foul trouble and finished with two points.
Jason Buchanan, one of three freshmen in the St. John’s starting lineup, scored a career-high 21 points.
With St. John’s leading, 44-39, with 13:18 left, Williams scored seven of the next 12 points as the Redmen extended the margin to 56-45. The Billikens got no closer than five the rest of the way, the last time at 70-65 with 33 seconds to go after a three-point goal and free throw by Jeff Luechtefeld.
Two three-point goals by Luechtefeld gave St. Louis a 23-19 edge with 6:34 left in the first half, but the Billikens scored only one point in the next 5:41 as St. John’s took a 32-25 lead.
A three-pointer by Gray got the Billikens within four with 52 seconds to go, but Williams, who scored all 12 of his first-half points in the final 9:23, got inside with one second remaining, giving the Redmen a 34-28 advantage at halftime.
Alabama Birmingham 78, Michigan State 76--Alan Ogg’s dunk with four seconds left in overtime gave the Blazers a win over the Spartans in the third-place game.
Barry Bearden, who had eight three-pointers and 26 points, drove the lane and passed to the 7-foot-2 Ogg for the uncontested dunk. Reginald Turner, who averaged 23.4 in five NIT games, also had 26 points for the Blazers, who finished the season 22-12.
Kirk Manns had 29 points for Michigan State (18-15). Steve Smith had 20 for the Spartans. Smith had six points in overtime but missed a free throw with 17 seconds left that set up the winning possession for UAB.
Manns, a non-starter who is the Spartans’ third-leading scorer with an 11.4 average, had two of his five three-pointers during a 27-12 Michigan State run that turned a 45-37 deficit into a 64-57 lead with 5:10 left in regulation.
UAB scored 11 of the next 14 points to regain the lead, 68-67, before Ken Redfield hit one of two free throws to tie the score with 1:01 remaining.