NEW YORK - Gregg Marshall has always believed his team belonged in the NCAA tournament. He sees two teams in the Final Four that Wichita State nearly beat, then considers how well the Shockers have played to reach the NIT championship game.
"These kids were very disappointed; we talked about this ad nauseam. They wanted to go to the NCAA tournament," Marshall said Tuesday night shortly after his Shockers blitzed Washington State 77-45 in the NIT semifinals. "We came here, and here we are playing for a title."
Garrett Stutz had a career-high 24 points with 11 rebounds, Toure Murry added 13 points as the Shockers (28-8) surpassed the 1954 team for the most wins in school history. They'll try to win one more against Alabama on Thursday night.
"That's about as well as we've played in a long time, and I'm just so happy these guys are continuing to play," Marshall said. "They really showed a lot of resilience, and they're playing better, and that's what you want your team to do, play better at the end."
Wichita State played awfully well earlier this season, too.
It led Connecticut for about 37 minutes at the Maui Invitational before losing 83-79, then watched VCU hit two free throws with 0.8 of a second left to steal a 68-67 victory in February.
Both of those teams are in the Final Four in Houston.
The Missouri Valley often gets more than one team into the NCAA tournament, but a down year for the conference meant only Indiana State - the team that beat Wichita State in the league tournament - got in as an automatic qualifier. Wichita State was relegated to the NIT, where it has proved it certainly belongs among the top 68 teams in the country.
The Shockers romped over Nebraska in the opening round, then went to Virginia Tech - another team left on the NCAA tournament bubble - and won again. They returned home to beat College of Charleston to earn a trip to Madison Square Garden.
"They were outstanding tonight and they were by far the best team on the floor, and they handled us quite well," Washington State coach Ken Bone said.
Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto scored nine points each to lead Washington State (22-13), which shot 29.4 percent (15 of 41).
Leading scorer Klay Thompson matched a season low with six points, 16 below his season average.
• Alabama 62, Colorado 61: In New York, JaMychal Green scored 22 points, Trevor Releford scored the go-ahead basket in the closing seconds, and top-seeded Alabama withstood a late rally to beat Colorado in the NIT semifinals.
Releford finished with 13 points for the Crimson Tide (25-11), which advanced to play Wichita State on Thursday night for the title.
Alabama trailed 61-60 with 12 seconds left when Releford slipped by Marcus Relphorde along the baseline to score the go-ahead basket.
After a timeout, Colorado got the ball into the hands of sophomore Alec Burks , but his off-balanced shot at the buzzer clanked off the rim.
• What: NIT final, Wichita State vs. Alabama
• Where: New York
• When: 4 p.m. Thursday
• TV: ESPN2