New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Austin Hollins scored 19 points with four steals to lead the Minnesota Golden Gophers to a 65-63 win over the SMU Mustangs and secure the program's second NIT title.
Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu netted 14 and 13, respectively, for Minnesota (25-13), which capped Richard Pitino's inaugural season at the school with a championship victory at Madison Square Garden.
"Obviously extremely happy for our guys to win a championship," said Pitino. "They were a lot of fun to coach. I thought they all got better."
The Golden Gophers last won the invitational crown back in 1993, defeating Georgetown by a 62-61 margin, and appeared in the tournament's championship game in 2012 before losing, 75-51, to Stanford.
Nic Moore paced the Mustangs (27-10) with 17 points, while Nick Russell tallied 15 and Shawn Williams added 11 before fouling out late.
Austin Hollins' layup with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game gave the Gophers a 45-44 edge. Markus Kennedy then capped a 9-1 run for SMU with a dunk that helped the Mustangs to a 53-46 advantage.
Mathieu countered with a three-point play and Austin Hollins followed with a layup before Maurice Walker tied the game at 53-apiece with a jumper just before the four-minute media timeout.
With just under two minutes left, Austin Hollins followed a pair of free throws from Mathieu with a layup to push SMU's lead to three, 57-54.
Russell followed with a wing 3-pointer to tie the game, but Hollins put all the pressure on Larry Brown's squad less than a minute later.
Andre Hollins drove and kicked it to his wide-open brother Austin, who buried a trey for a 62-59 edge with under a minute to play.
Moore split a pair at the line on the ensuing Mustangs possession and cut the deficit to one, 63-62, with 5.8 seconds left.
Andre Hollins nailed a pair at the stripe in the closing seconds and Pitino elected to foul Russell on the next SMU touch.
Russell made 1-of-2 from the line and Minnesota ran out the remaining time to earn the championship victory.
"I'm proud of my team," said Brown. "Obviously both teams were kind of disappointed we weren't able to play in the NCAA, and I think all the teams that were here showed a lot of character picking themselves up and making a run."
The Gophers led by six after an Andre Hollins layup late in the first half, then Williams responded with a trey which capped the scoring in the opening stanza and cut the deficit to 30-27 at the break.
SMU now leads the all-time series between the two schools, 6-4, but all nine previous meetings took place in consecutive years between 1954-1963 ... Pitino's father Rick was seated behind the Gophers' bench for the contest ... The Mustangs defeated UC Irvine, LSU, California and Clemson to reach the title game ... Minnesota took out High Point, Saint Mary's, Southern Miss and Florida State en route to the championship ... Minnesota shot 24-for-49 from the field, while SMU made 22-of-45 shot from the floor ... There were 17 lead changes and 14 ties ... The Mustangs owned a 31-25 edge on the boards ... The Gophers had a 10-0 margin on the fastbreak and a 21-9 edge with points off turnovers.