George Washington looked right at home in Madison Square Garden, even though the arena was unfamiliar territory.
Patricio Garino added 13 points for the fourth-seeded Colonials (27-10), who committed only six turnovers. They matched the school record for wins in a season and won in their first visit to the Garden since 2001.
Dakarai Allen had 13 points for No. 2 seed San Diego State (28-10), which struggled to score at times throughout the season and had a dreadful shooting night at the wrong time.
“I think our inability to make shots affected our concentration at the other end, and all of a sudden you’ve got a snowball going downhill that turns into a gigantic glacier as it builds up steam,” SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. “George Washington had a lot to do with us playing poorly. They sliced and diced us at our defensive end and put us in positions that put us a little bit out of character.”
Lonergan thought that helped, along with all the GW fans in the crowd of 8,298.
One reason is Cavanaugh, who came in averaging 21.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in the first three games of the tournament.
“The thing that kept us from making the NCAA Tournament was really our defense. I could never get it up to par,” Lonergan said. “But they were really motivated going to the NIT and we’ve been good offensively all year and they really started playing team defense.”
“We’ve been playing really good basketball lately and shots have been falling, and one of the biggest games of the year, we couldn’t buy a bucket. Just real bad timing,” senior big man Skylar Spencer said.
San Diego State: Fisher, who led Michigan to the 1997 NIT championship, was trying to become the second coach to win the tournament at two schools. Dave Odom did it at Wake Forest and South Carolina.
George Washington: NIT championship game Thursday night against Valparaiso.