Indiana St. sinks Utah to reach NIT title game

Ryan Conwell and Robbie Avila combined for 53 points as Indiana State knocked off Utah 100-90 on Tuesday in the NIT semifinals at Indianapolis.

Conwell finished with 27 points while Avila chipped in 26 points and 10 rebounds for the top-seeded Sycamores (32-6), who were playing in the NIT Final Four less than 80 miles from their campus. Indiana State will face either No. 1 Seton Hall or No. 4 Georgia in Thursday’s title game.

Deivon Smith had 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lead the second-seeded Utes (22-15). Branden Carlson (17 points), Cole Bajema (14), Ben Carlson (11) and Hunter Erickson (10) also scored in double figures for Utah.

The Utes stayed close thanks to 17-for-29 shooting from 3-point range (58.6 percent), compared to a 35.3 percent mark from deep for the Sycamores. Meanwhile, Indiana State dominated in paint scoring (50-28) and made 14 of 20 free throws, while Utah was just 5 of 10 from the charity stripe.

Indiana State led 68-60 with 9:26 remaining before 3-pointers by Smith and Gabe Madsen helped the Utes get within 71-66. The Sycamores answered with two quick 3-pointers of their own, courtesy of Xavier Bledson and Julian Larry, to build an 11-point advantage.

Smith responded with another long-range bucket, but Indiana State countered with six straight points — a run capped by Isaiah Swope’s layup with 6:04 left — to open an 83-69 lead.

Swope and Larry chipped in 15 points apiece for Indiana State.

Utah got within 83-73 with 5:03 to go, but a 3-pointer by Conwell halted the Utes’ momentum, and the Sycamores cruised to the finish.

Indiana State led by as many as 11 in the first half before Utah stormed back to lead by as many as three late in the period. The Utes still held a narrow lead before Conwell’s layup in the waning seconds forged a 44-44 tie at the break.

Avila led all scorers with 15 first-half points, while Smith and Bajema had nine apiece to pace Utah.