George Washington beat San Diego State, 65-46, in the NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. The Colonials led 35-20 at halftime and outscored the Aztecs 30-26 in the second half.

Junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh finished with a game-high 20 points and a game-high 11 rebounds to help GW (27-10) win its fourth game of the tournament.

“Cavanaugh has really stepped it up,” George Washington coach Mike Lonergan said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “He’s averaging over 20 points in the NIT. He gives us an inside-out threat. Both our bigs – Cavanaugh and (Kevin) Larsen – can handle the ball, so it takes some pressure off of our guards. We’re not the most athletic, quickest team in the world. San Diego State was so athletic, but we were able to spread them out by letting our big guys handle the ball.”

GW had 17 assists to just six turnovers, while its 1-3-1 zone limited San Diego State to 3-of-22 (13.6 percent) shooting from beyond the arc.

Not bad for a team that got snubbed by the selection committee.

“Our guys, we had a heck of a year,” Lonergan said. “We beat Virginia, we beat Seton Hall – we did so much. We just had a few (losses) that really hurt us. I really felt we were one game away from making the NCAA Tournament. But if you did a blind taste test on our resume, I always felt that we were a tournament team, but our league doesn’t get enough respect. We play a quality schedule. We’ll play anybody, anywhere. What I love about this NIT, our guys were motivated. Tonight, we made a very, very good team look bad, so I give all the credit in the world to our team. They followed the scouting repot, they did a great job with the 1-3-1 and they really were committed to playing defense.”

George Washington, which has beaten Hofstra, Monmouth, Florida and San Diego State, plays No. 1 Valparaiso (30-6) in the NIT Championship on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.

Valparaiso beat BYU, 72-70, in its semifinal.

“Valpo is a heck of a team,” Lonergan said. “San Diego State, BYU – those are all teams that I think could have made the tournament – and not only make it, I thought they could win some games. Usually those committees do a great job. This year, I was definitely surprised by some of the picks, but hey, there’s nothing you can do about it. We had to regroup and get focused for this NIT.”


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