March 23, 1999
NEW YORK (AP)–Xavier and Clemson will meet for the first time ever in Tuesday night’s NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
The Musketeers (24-10), who had a 21-10 mark after losing to Temple in the Atlantic-10 tournament, were stunned when they were left out of the NCAA tournament.
But after beating Toledo, Wake Forest and Princeton to reach the NIT’s semifinals, coach Skip Prosser is satisfied with the situation.
“I cannot say enough how grateful we are to be here,” Prosser said. “I’ve never been through this before. But I talked to coaches who have been in a situation where they should have gone to the NCAAs and didn’t. They said the NIT was a great experience, especially if you get to New York.”
Xavier won the 1958 NIT.
Clemson, which started the season 11-0, is looking for its first postseason championship of any kind since winning the Southern Conference 60 years ago.
No team the past two decades had been in more NITs than Clemson’s nine appearances and not reached New York City.
“I think coming to New York will be a springboard for the future,” Tigers coach Larry Shyatt said. “Maybe, just maybe, they can finish the job and get themselves some rings.”
Clemson (19-14) earned its trip to the Garden by beating Georgia and Rutgers on the road and Butler at home.
The Tigers, who will have a slight height advantage, are led by guard Terrell McIntyre, who averages 17.9 points per game, and boast a frontline of 6-foot-8 Harold Jamison, 6-foot-9 Andrius Jurkunas and 6-foot-10 Tom Wideman. Jamison averages 12.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Xavier, though, may have the best player on the court in senior James Posey, the A-10’s defensive player of the year. He averages 17 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
Posey is no stranger to Madison Square Garden where he helped the United States win a gold medal in the Goodwill Games last summer.
“The last time I was there I won a gold medal,” Posey said. “I’m looking forward to going back and trying to win the whole thing.”
The winner will play for the NIT title on Thursday night against either Oregon or California.
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