Nov. 28, 1997
Florida State Falls to Kansas in NIT Finals
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Paul Pierce scored 23 points and blunted every fourth-quarter rally with a key basket as second-ranked Kansas turned back number 25 Florida State, 73-58, in the championship of the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Raef LaFrentz added 15 of his 17 points in the second half for Kansas (6-0), which won this event for the third time in as many tries under coach Roy Williams. Williams is 12-0 in the Preseason NIT, also winning in 1989 and 1993.
Randell Jackson scored 15 points and Terrell Baker 12 for the Seminoles (4-1), who surprised number 11 Connecticut in the semifinals Wednesday to reach the championship game. Florida State fought Kansas on even terms for almost 33 minutes before Pierce took over.
Seminoles coach Steve Robinson, a former assistant under Williams at Kansas and in his first year at Florida State, lost for the first time.
Pierce gave the Jayhawks the lead for good at 52-49 when he made a three-pointer from the left wing with 7:04 to play. After a basket by Jackson cut the gap to one, Pierce tipped in a miss by LaFrentz to restore the three-point lead.
LaFrentz scored, but Baker knocked down a three-pointer to pull Floirda State within 56-54 at the 4:25 mark. However, Pierce again answered the challenge, this time hitting a three-pointer