It was a real dang good year and nobody’s going to take the fact away that we got on a nice roll. We just ran into a really good team. Could have been one of those Cinderella finishes, but it wasn’t. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
NEW YORK — So much for a garden party. Penn State foiled Utah’s plans to win the NIT championship Thursday night. Lamar Stevens scored 28 points and Tony Carr finished with a near triple-double (15 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds) as the Nittany Lions topped the Utes 82-66 before a crowd of 11,175 at Madison Square Garden.
“We got beat. I have no problem when you lose a game. I’ve told our guys that for years. I’ve always felt that way,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “If a team beats you, shake their hand and congratulate them."
Krystkowiak added that Penn State outplayed the Utes. They needed to play better in order to win.
“But I take a lot of solace in the fact that we didn’t beat ourselves,” he said. “I really think that guys maximized it, and it was a great college experience. It was a great year to be a part of.”
The Utes (23-12) were the last Pac-12 team standing in the postseason and came within a game of winning the NIT for the first time since 1947. Krystkowiak noted that 99 of 100 times, meetings and practices were about getting better as a basketball team and not fixing mistakes or problems.
“It was a real dang good year and nobody’s going to take the fact away that we got on a nice roll,” said Krystkowiak, who explained that it’s the time of year to be playing your best. “We just ran into a really good team. Could have been one of those Cinderella finishes, but it wasn’t.”
On the positive side, Utah posted NIT wins over UC Davis, LSU, Saint Mary’s and Western Kentucky. Guards Sedrick Barefield and Justin Bibbins made the all-tournament team.
“You want to win the game. But losing doesn’t take away from anything,” Bibbins said. “You know, you get to come to New York with your boys. You’ve been practicing since August, grinding with them, so nothing is going to take that away from you — especially playing this deep in March.”
In the finale, Barefield led Utah with 22 points. The junior made six 3-pointers.
Bibbins contributed 15 points and four assists in his last game with the Utes. A neck injury in the second quarter wound up bringing a premature end to David Collette’s college career. Although he tried to play again in the second half, he wound up logging just 13 minutes — finishing with four points, three assists and two rebounds. Fellow senior Gabe Bealer didn’t score in his last game.