Shunned by NCAA, Mount invited to its first NIT Phelan's 21-7 team to play at Ill. State in 1st round

March 11, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

EMMITSBURG -- Mount St. Mary's was left out of the Big Dance, so it now will shuffle off to Normal, Ill., for its first National Invitation Tournament.

The Northeast Conference regular-season champion received an NIT berth last night and will visit Illinois State (20-11) for a first-round game Wednesday 9:30 p.m.

The Mount-Illinois State survivor will meet the winner of the Manhattan-Wisconsin game nest Monday.

Mount St. Mary's (21-7) was knocked out of the NCAA tournament via a 74-70 loss to Rider in the Northeast tournament semifinals last Monday. That defeat ended a 15-game Mount winning streak.

Coach Jim Phelan said he had harbored no illusions about going to the NCAA tournament after the NEC defeat.

"One of the reasons for going to the NIT is that it's the oldest tournament, and for years, it was the highest quality tournament," he said. "It doesn't get the respect it once got, but we're happy to be in it."

Phelan played in the NIT with La Salle.

Illinois State finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference during the regular season.

The Redbirds had two common opponents with the Mount, beating La Salle, 72-65, and Fairleigh Dickinson, 79-58. Mount St. Mary's won at La Salle, 81-66, and defeated Fairleigh Dickinson twice, 76-73 and 85-66. TC This is the first meeting between the two schools.

"They're going to be hard to beat out there," said Phelan. "But we knew we'd have to play a road game and this team has been good on the road."

The Mount is healthy with the exception of third guard Silas Cheung, who has to play with a face guard to protect a broken nose.

The Mount has never played in the NIT, but has a 25-18 postseason record, including last year's lopsided loss to Kentucky in its first NCAA Division I appearance.

Phelan took the team to the 1962 College Division national title after a third-place finish in that tournament the preceding year.

Pub Date: 3/11/96

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