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NIT - Penn State vs. Utah
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Penn State (24-14 straight up, 20-13 against the spread) made quick and easy work of Mississippi State in Tuesday’s NIT semifinal nightcap game at Madison Square Garden in New York City. With the score knotted at 9-9, Pat Chambers’ team ended the first quarter on a 9-2 run.

NIT Betting Results - Penn State
Date Matchup Score ATS Result
Mar. 14 Penn State (-9.5) vs. Temple 63-57 Underdog-Under (144.5)
Mar. 17 Notre Dame vs. Penn State (+5.5, ML +210) 73-63 Undedog-Under (154.5)
Mar. 20 Penn State (+3, ML +140) vs. Marquette 85-80 Underdog-Over (151)
Mar. 27 Penn State (-2.5) vs. Mississippi State 75-60 Favorite-Under (136)

Then PSU erupted for 19 unanswered points to start the second stanza for a 37-11 lead. The Nittany Lions coasted to victory from there, capturing a 75-60 win as 2.5-point favorites. The 135 combined points slithered ‘under’ the 136-point total.

Ben Howland’s club outscored PSU 19-10 in the fourth quarter to create a misleading final score. Make no mistake, this was nothing but a beatdown with the Nittany Lions leading by as many as 27 points.

Shep Garner scored 18 points, draining six 3-pointers to break the school’s career record for treys (332). Garner also buried six triples in a Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to Purdue, so he’s hit 12 attempts from 3-point land in his last two games at MSG and 334 for his career.

Tony Carr scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-18 makes on field-goal attempts and 3-of-6 shooting from downtown. The sophomore guard, who has scored at least 19 points in nine of PSU’s last 11 contests, also had six rebounds, one blocked shot and five assists compared to merely one turnover. Lamar Stevens added 17 points, eight rebounds, one block and six assists with only one turnover.

PSU made 11-of-20 shots from beyond the arc (55.0%) and had a stellar 18/5 assist-to-turnover ratio. With the victory, the Nittany Lions advanced to the finals where they will take on Utah from out of the Pac-12 Conference.

As of Wednesday afternoon, most betting shops had Penn State installed as a four-point favorite with a total of 134.5. The Utes were +160 on the money line (risk $100 to win $160).

Utah (23-11 SU, 18-11 ATS) is 6-6-2 ATS with five outright wins in 14 games as an underdog, but it owns a 4-1-1 spread ledger with three outright victories in its last six such spots. Since Feb. 8, the Utes have compiled a 10-2 SU record and an 8-3-1 ATS mark.

NIT Betting Results - Utah
Date Matchup Score ATS Result
Mar. 14 Utah (-12.5) vs. UC Davis 69-59 Underdog-Under (139)
Mar. 19 LSU vs. Utah (-5) 95-71 Favorite-Over (148.5)
Mar. 21 Utah (+6, +250) vs. St. Mary's 67-58 Underdog-Under (140.5)
Mar. 27 Western Kentucky vs. Utah (+2, ML +115) 69-64 Underdog-Under (140)

Larry Krystkowiak’s squad has won four in a row over UC Davis (69-59), LSU (95-71), Saint Mary’s (67-58 in overtime) and Western Kentucky (69-64) to make the finals. Utah has covered the number in three straight games, with its lone non-cover coming against UC Davis as a 12.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The Utes easily took the cash against LSU as five-point home favorites, and they beat the Gaels as 6.5-point road underdogs.

On Tuesday in the Big Apple, Utah waged a back-and-forth affair with 5’8” senior guard Justin Bibbins taking over at crunch time. Bibbins constantly attacked the basket to earn his way to the free-throw line, making all 12 of his attempts at the charity stripe. He finished with 19 points and four assists to send the Utes to the NIT finals for the first time since 1974.

Trailing 64-63 in the final minute, Bibbins penetrated to draw the defense and found Tyler Rawson wide open on the right wing. Rawson buried the in-rhythm-catch-and-shoot trifecta with 38.1 ticks remaining. Next, Bibbins drew a charge at the defensive end, then hit both FTs after being fouled at the other end.

Sedrick Barefield added 14 points and five rebounds, while David Collette had 13 points and seven boards. Rawson finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Donnie Tillman contributed eight points and 10 rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.

Bibbins averages a team-best 14.7 points per game and has a 159/68 assist-to-turnover ratio. He has splashed the nets at a 43.9 percent clip from 3-point range and made 87.6 percent of his FTs. Bibbins also had a team-high 44 steals.

Collette (12.5PPG), Barefield (11.7 PPG) and Rawson (10.9 PPG) are also averaging in double figures. Rawson averages 6.9 RPG, has a team-best 32 blocked shots, has a 127/67 assist-to-turnover ratio and is hitting 37.2 percent of his 3-balls.

PSU is ranked 33rd in the nation in 3-point accuracy, knocking down 38.7 percent of its treys. Carr is burying 43.9 percent of his 3-pointers and Garner has hit 43.5 percent from long distance.

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Carr averages team-highs in scoring (19.7 PPG) and assists (4.8 APG). Stevens (15.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG) has 70 assists, 41 blocked shots and 24 steals. Garner (11.5 PPG) has made a team-high 82.1 percent of his FTs, while Josh Reaves (10.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG) has a 105/46 assist-to-turnover ratio and a team-best 74 steals.

Penn State has posted an 8-7-1 spread record in 16 games as a single-digit ‘chalk.’ The Nittany Lions got to NYC with wins over Temple (63-57), Notre Dame (73-63) and Marquette (85-80).

PSU won the NIT in 2009 with a win over Baylor and is making a third NIT finals appearance here. Utah is also in the finals for the third time, beating Kentucky to win the event in 1947.

The ‘under’ is on a 5-2 run for PSU to improve to 19-15 overall.

The ‘under’ is on a 6-1 roll for the Utes, 20-11-1 overall.

Tip-off on Thursday night is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Washington State sophomore guard Malachi Flynn announced Tuesday that he will transfer from the Pac-12 program. Flynn averaged 15.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds for the Cougars, who might also be losing Robert Franks. The Pac-12’s Most Improved Player announced Monday that he’s entering the NBA Draft, albeit without signing with an agent.

-- Nebraska’s Isaac Copeland and James Palmer Jr. are both going to test the NBA waters but aren’t signing with an agent yet.

-- Arizona’s Rawle Alkins joined teammates Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton in declaring early for the Draft.

-- Despite starting 34 games as a sophomore, FSU guard C.J. Walker is transferring. Walker, who averaged 8.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, saw his minutes decreased during the Seminoles’ first run to the Elite Eight since 1993.

-- Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges has – as expected – declared early for the NBA Draft.

-- Texas could be losing three players early to the NBA Draft. Mo Bamba, Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis Jr. have declared, although Roach won’t sign with an agent.

-- Louisville made a great hire by plucking Chris Mack from Xavier with a reported seven-year deal worth around $28 million.

-- 5Dimes.eu has posted numbers for all four possible scenarios for Monday’s championship game in San Antonio. Villanova is favored by 9.5 points vs. Loyola-Chicago with a total of 143.5, while the Wildcats are 4.5-point ‘chalk’ vs. Michigan with a 143.5-point tally. Kansas is favored by two vs. the Wolverines and by seven against the Ramblers, who are +260 on the money line vs. KU and +415 vs. ‘Nova.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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