Valparaiso's Shane Hammink blocked BYU's game-winning three-point attempt at the buzzer to preserve Valparaiso's 72-70 win over BYU in the first semifinal game of the NIT played at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The top-seed Crusaders will meet fourth-seed George Washington on Thursday in the NIT Championship game. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST and will be televised on ESPN. George Washington defeated San Diego State, 65-46, in the second semifinal to advance to the championship.
The Crusaders and Cougars were tied at 68 with 40 seconds remaining. Out of a timeout, Valpo sophomore David Skara drilled a three-pointer to give Valpo a 71-68 lead with 20 seconds left. BYU rushed the ball down the floor and had a layup attempt blocked by Vashil Fernandez, but the Cougars grabbed the offensive rebound and layed it back in to get within one with 7.2 seconds remaining. Valparaiso called its last timeout and setup its patented late-game home run play with Alec Peters hitting Hammink. Hammink fumbled the catch but recovered and was fouled with four seconds left. The junior forward made his first free throw, missed the second, but hustled back and blocked BYU's final attempt to send Valpo to the NIT finals.
Valparaiso did not look like it would need any late game heroics in the first half as the Crusaders shot 51 percent from the field, including 58.3 percent from three-point range (7-12) to open a 44-30 halftime lead on BYU. The Crusaders committed 13 turnovers in the first half, but forced 12 BYU turnovers and also limited the Cougars to just 35 percent shooting.A driving Peters layup to start the second half gave Valpo its biggest lead of the game at 16, but Valpo would score just 13 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half as BYU's zone defense flummoxed the Valpo offense. The Cougars would go on a 21-8 run to cut Valparaiso's lead to three, 54-51, with 10:10 to play. The Crusaders pushed the lead back to six at 63-57, but the Cougars would again go on a run, this time a 7-0 streak, to take their first lead of the game, 64-63 when Kyle Collinsworth completed a three-point play with 4:26 to play.
Valparaiso immediately responded on the offensive end as Hammink connected on a layup to put Valpo back in front. Ninety seconds later David Skara hit a layup to put Valpo up three, but BYU would score on its next two trips down the court to retake the lead 68-67 with 1:19 to go. Hammink would drive to the basket, making one of two free throws with 1:04 to play to tie the game and setup Valparaiso's win in the final minute.
BYU only led twice in the game - 64-63 and 68-67 - and both times Valparaiso responded immediately on the offensive end to either re-take the lead or tie the game. BYU finished the game only leading the contest for 31 seconds.