NEW YORK >> David Skara sank the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 20 seconds left and Valparaiso held off BYU 72-70 on Tuesday night to reach the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament.
Skara came off the bench to score a season-high 15 points, none bigger than his jumper that gave the top-seeded Crusaders (30-6) a 71-68 advantage after they had squandered a 16-point cushion.
Alec Peters also had 15 points for the Crusaders, who will play for the title Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against the winner of the second semifinal between George Washington and San Diego State.
Kyle Collinsworth paced the Cougars (26-11) with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in his final college game. Nick Emery scored 18 and Chase Fischer added 16.
With the Cougars trailing by three, Fischer had his shot blocked, but scored on a putback with 7.4 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one.
Shane Hammink broke free behind the defense on the ensuing inbounds play, but fumbled the ball and was quickly fouled near the basket. He made one of two free throws with 4.7 seconds to go, then blocked Fischer's long 3-point try at the buzzer to seal it.
Keith Carter had 13 points for the Crusaders, who were playing in the NIT semifinals for the first time. Hammink and Darien Walker each added 10.
After trailing by 16 early in the second half, BYU took its first lead at 64-63 when Collinsworth converted a three-point play with 4:26 remaining, charging up a loud contingent of Cougars fans.
BYU went ahead again, 68-67, when Kyle Davis scored inside off a pass from Collinsworth with 1:18 left. Hammink hit one of two free throws a few seconds later to tie it. Collinsworth airballed a pull-up jumper, setting the stage for Skara.
Valparaiso opened a 15-point lead, its largest of the first half, with under a minute to go and went to the break up 44-30 after Hammink soared through the lane for a dunk.
BYU also lost in the NIT semifinals three years ago. That game was against Baylor, coached by Scott Drew — the brother of Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew. Scott Drew also guided the Bears to a semifinal victory in 2009 over San Diego State.
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BYU players had dinner Sunday night with former Cougars star and national player of the year Jimmer Fredette, coach Dave Rose said. Fredette has played for the New York Knicks this season and is on the roster of their Westchester affiliate in the NBA Development League. "He's a Cougar. We see him all the time," Rose said. "Jimmer's tied to us pretty well. We're proud of him."
BYU: Emery appeared to be bleeding after taking a shot to his nose or mouth a few minutes in. He got some quick work on the sideline and stayed in the game. ... BYU was the only semifinalist that had won an NIT championship. The Cougars are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their 1966 title, and they also took the crown in 1951. ... Collinsworth holds NCAA records with six triple-doubles this season and 12 in his career.
Valparaiso: Peters had scored at least 20 points in seven straight games. ... It was the first matchup between the schools since the 1940s, when they split two meetings. ... Valparaiso improved to 12-4 against teams from the West Coast Conference, including a 60-44 quarterfinal victory over Saint Mary's. ... Valparaiso, one of the nation's toughest defensive teams, forced the high-scoring Cougars into four turnovers in the first 3 minutes. The teams combined for 25 turnovers in a sluggish first half.
BYU: Season is over.
Valparaiso: NIT championship game Thursday night against George Washington or San Diego State.