Cougs selected for NIT, eye Big Apple

THE WSU HOOPS SEASON isn't over yet. A late regular season run caught the eye of the National Invitational Tournament and on Sunday night, the Cougars were officially announced in the tournament's field of 32. They'll take on St. Mary's, the No. 2 team from the WCC.

The Cougars, a No. 7 seed, will travel to Moraga, Calif., to play No. 2 seeded St. Mary's in the opening round on Tuesday at 8 pm. The game is scheduled for live broadcast on ESPN2.

St. Mary's finished the season 26-6, finishing second to Gonzaga in the WCC regular season and then losing the WCC tourney title game to the Zags, 83-58, last week.

The Gaels went so far as to schedule a last-minute game with Eastern Washington on Friday in order to prove to the NCAA tourney committee that their star guard, Patty Mills, was fully recovered from the broken hand that had shelved him since a Jan. 29 loss to Gonzaga.

The Gaels beat EWU and Mills, with 19 points, looked just fine, but St. Mary's was one of about five teams considered to have been most snubbed by the NCAA selection committee.

Mills, a sophomore point guard and Australian Olympian, was the Gaels' leading scorer (18.7 points) this season. He also averaged 3.9 assists.

We'll have much more on Washington State (17-15) in the NIT including comments from Tony Bennett a little later on.

All games will be held at college home arenas except for the NIT Final Four, which will be played in New York City at Madison Square Garden. The NIT covers all expenses for teams.

Washington State won the Pontiac Game Changing Performance for the regular season in all of college basketball on Sunday, earning a contribution to WSU's general scholarship fund from Pontiac. The award was for WSU's overtime win over ASU when Taylor Rochestie buried a three pointer from deep beyond the line with 2.3 seconds remaining to give the Cougars a 51-49 victory.

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