NEW YORK CITY — Larry Krystkowiak and Utah got 22 points from Sedrick Barefield, but couldn’t overcome a strong third quarter from Penn State, as the Nittany Lions defeated the Utes 82-66 in the National Invitation Tournament on Thursday evening. It was the second NIT title in Penn State’s program history.
Krystkowiak, the former Montana Grizzly player and coach, put together a fantastic run through the NIT bracket, defeating UC Davis (69-59) in the opening round, LSU (95-71) in the second round, No. 1 seed Saint Mary’s (67-58) in the quarterfinals and Western Kentucky (69-64) in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Krystkowiak’s Utes stuck with Penn State in the opening half, trailing 21-20 after the opening quarter and 39-34 at halftime, but Penn State surged to a 15-point lead after the third period, thanks to 24 points in the quarter.
Penn State shot 55 percent from the floor, while limiting Utah to 43 percent and only 25 field goals. The Utes made 10 3-pointers in the contest, but were out-rebounded 34-27 in the loss.
Lamar Stevens had a game-high 28 points for PSU, while John Harrar corralled 12 rebounds for the Nittany Lions, who also got 14 assists from Tony Carr.
Krystkowiak’s Utes finished the 2017-2018 season with a 23-12 record. The former Shelby and Missoula basketball standout is currently in the third year of a contract that runs through 2023. An amendment in November 2016 set Krystkowiak’s annual salary at nearly $3.4 million.
Utah has qualified for the NCAA tournament twice during Krystkowiak’s tenure, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2015. The Utes fell in the first round of the NIT last season.
Krystkowiak became the University of Montana’s career scoring leader after bursting onto the scene as a sophomore, earning Big Sky Conference most valuable player honors. He scored 2,107 points and grabbed 1,105 rebounds, ranking in the top three in Big Sky Conference history.
Following a fine NBA career, Krystkowiak coached UM to two Big Sky Conference championships and NCAA tournament berths, upsetting No. 5 seed Nevada in the opening round of hte 2006 tournament.
In 2016 Krystkowiak was honored as the No. 3 men’s basketball player during the MontanaSports.com #MTTop50, a look at the top 50 boys basketball players in Treasure State history.