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National Invitation Tournament Quarterfinals Recap - (1) Colorado 81, (7) Kent State 74

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You don’t get mad; you get even. The kids from Colorado didn’t sulk after being left out of the NCAA Tournament; they decided to pack their bags for the Big Apple and chase a championship.

The Colorado Buffaloes advanced to the semifinal of the National Invitational Tournament with a hard fought victory over the Kent State Flashes on Tuesday night from the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colorado. The Buffs were the most visible of NCAA Tournament snubs just two weeks ago. With a win on Tuesday evening, head coach Tad Boyle’s Colorado club advanced to Madison Square Garden in New York City to gain a taste of the big time and pursue the school’s first NIT title in over seven decades.

Alec Burks was tremendous once again for CU, fighting off a sickness which required the star to undergo an I.V. treatment before the game. Burks, playing through pain and physical diminishment the way all great athletes invariably must at some point in their careers, scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a mighty effort and a bold triumph over his surrounding circumstances. Burks’s boldness and brilliance were the main components in a special night for a basketball family that felt so rightfully wounded over a week ago following its Selection Sunday snub. The big-league effort of a meal0-ticket player enabled Colorado to win a close contest with its opponent from the Mid-American Conference.

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The Flashes, who had previously upset both Saint Mary’s and Fairfeld on the road in the previous two rounds of this NIT tournament, were close to making it a third road triumph in the Rocky Mountains. The regular-season MAC champions were this close, a fraction in truth, from crisscrossing three separate time zones – Pacific, Eastern and then Mountain – and living to tell the tale each time. It’s a testament to the KSU players and coaches that the Flashes looked anything but jet-lagged or groggy as they handled this road game just 54 hours after finishing up with Fairfield on Sunday afternoon in the state of Connecticut.

Kent State and Colorado traded leads for the vast majority of the game and the Buffaloes only began to gain separation in the final two minutes. Head coach Geno Ford’s Kent crew was led by Justin Greene’s 20 points. The Golden Flashes finished the season at 25-12, a game short of New York but without the sense that they left anything on the court. The Golden Flashes should be immensely proud of the way they competed. Colorado, though, should be happy that it upheld its high seed in the NIT and gained a trip to America’s basketball mecca – Madison Square Garden – as a nice consolation prize after missing out on the Big Dance. CU will play the winner of the Alabama/Miami quarterfinal to be played on Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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