Boogie Ellis scored a game-high 23 points Sunday afternoon, leading the top-seeded Memphis Tigers to a 77-64 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the NIT championship game afternoon at Frisco, Texas.
Memphis (20-8) won its second NIT title and its first since 2002. The Tigers played swarming defense as evidenced by 10 blocks, including five by D.J. Jeffries. Memphis also got seven steals by seven different players, while holding the Bulldogs to 38.3 percent shooting.
The Tigers — who never trailed and led by as many as 18 points — got eight points and a career-high 16 rebounds from 6-5 guard Lester Quinones. Landers Nolley II, who had a career-high 27 points in the NIT semifinal round on Saturday, added 10 points.
Fourth-seeded Mississippi State (18-15), which has never won an NIT title, was led by Cameron Matthews, who had 19 points before fouling out with 2:47 left in the game. Deivon Smith had 17 points off the bench, and Abdul Ado added eight points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
However, Memphis slowed down the Bulldogs’ top two scorers: Iverson Molinar and D.J. Stewart Jr., who averaged 33.4 points a game between them, managed just 10 in the final. Molinar had six points on 2-for-7 shooting, while Stewart missed his first nine shots and finished with four points.
Memphis took an early 13-0 lead and suffocated Mississippi State with its defense. The Bulldogs went scoreless for the first 7:13 until Smith hit a three-pointer, and eventually getting back into the game with a 10-2 run to end the half. Seldom-used freshman Andersson Garcia came up with a steal and finger-roll layup at the halftime buzzer to tie the score 33.
Memphis, despite the hot start, shot just 27 percent from the floor in the first half. Mississippi State shot 36.7 percent.
However, the Tigers controlled the second half, outrebounding State in the second half, 19-12. Much like the first half, Memphis jumped out at the start of the second half, grabbing a double-digit lead, and the Bulldogs were never able to get close again.
In the NIT consolation game Sunday, Louisiana Tech rallied from an 11-point deficit to beat Colorado State 76-74 in Memphis.
–Field Level Media