Sunday, May 22nd, 2022 am31 1:25am

Xavier outlasts St. Bonaventure 84-77 in NIT semifinals

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NEW YORK — Jack Nunge, Adam Kunkel and Zach Freemantle each scored 18 points, and Xavier outlasted St. Bonaventure 84-77 in the NIT semifinals Tuesday night.

Colby Jones added 16 points and Nate Johnson had 10 for the Musketeers (22-13), who will face Texas A&M for the tournament championship Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Aggies cruised to a 72-56 victory over Washington State in the second semifinal.

Dominick Welch led St. Bonaventure (23-10) with 25 points. Jaren Holmes and Kyle Lofton each scored 15. Lofton also had 11 assists and five rebounds.

Xavier led by 19 in the first half but struggled to put away the Bonnies, who got within six twice in the closing minutes. The Musketeers made enough free throws that it never became a one-possession game.

St. Bonaventure cut it to five with five seconds left, but by then it was too late.

“We’re playing for one another,” Jones said. “I feel like we executed really well.”

Xavier shot 34 of 64 from the field (53.1%) and had a 38-28 advantage in rebounds. St. Bonaventure was 29 of 62 (46.8%) shooting.

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In the end of a college basketball tradition that dates to 1938, the championship game Thursday night will mark the NIT’s last one at Madison Square Garden for at least a couple of years.

MSG won’t host the semifinals and finals in 2023 and 2024, the NIT announced Monday, saying it has started a bid process to find new sites for those years and an announcement is expected this spring.

The NCAA bought the rights to the NIT in 2005.

“The NIT has had a rich history in New York City and we appreciate the invaluable partnership with Madison Square Garden,” NCAA Senior Vice President Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “This has not been an easy decision to make, but it is a mutual one.”

Gavitt added that “2023 and 2024 offer exciting possibilities for hosting the tournament in a new city and venue that will provide the teams with an outstanding experience.”

College basketball’s oldest major postseason tournament — and once its most prestigious — the National Invitation Tournament has crowned 82 champions at Madison Square Garden and played there annually since the event’s inception in 1938.

Last year was an exception, when the whole tournament was played in North Texas with a reduced field because of the coronavirus pandemic that also forced cancellation of the 2020 edition.

Nothing has been determined beyond 2024.

“The postseason NIT has been a great partner of ours over the years with a dedicated fanbase, and we wish them all the best,” said Joel Fisher, executive vice president, MSG Marquee Events.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25

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