Burks helps Colorado advance to NIT semifinals

The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 22, 2011; 11:35 PM

BOULDER, Colo. -- Alec Burks had 25 points and 10 rebounds, helping Colorado hold off Kent State 81-74 on Tuesday night and advance to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

The Buffaloes (24-13) will play the winner of Alabama and Miami next Tuesday in the Big Apple.

Snubbed by the NCAA selection committee, Colorado has used the oversight as motivation, routing Texas Southern and California by a combined 31 points. But the Buffs had to hang on against pesky Kent State, converting 4 of 5 free throws in the final 1:13.

The Buffs are attempting to capture their first NIT crown since 1940.

Justin Greene finished with 20 points for the Golden Flashes (25-12), who were playing their third straight NIT game on the road.

Colorado took control late in the second half when Marcus Relphorde converted a three-point play to make it 69-67 Buffs and Burks hit a reverse layup to extend the lead to four with 4:29 remaining.

Try as they might, the Golden Flashes couldn't tie the game back up as the Buffaloes punched their ticket to New York. Burks dribbled out the final seconds near midcourt, setting off a celebration as Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" blared over the loudspeakers.

Freshman Andre Roberson had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Cory Higgins inched closer to the school's scoring record with 13 points. He needs 13 more to tie Richard Roby's mark of 2,001 points. Higgins played alongside Roby as a freshman.

Higgins already owns Colorado marks for games played (131), started (130), minutes (4,446) and made free throws (567).

His records might be one day be challenged by Burks - provided, of course, the sensational sophomore decides to stick around instead of bolt for the NBA.

Burks recently broke CU's 40-year-old single-season scoring mark, amassing 759 points by utilizing a smooth jumper and a quick first step that got him around defenders.

The 6-foot-6 Burks was the first Buffs player in the 15-year history of the Big 12 championship to make the all-tournament team, helping the squad beat Iowa State and Kansas State - for a third time this season - before being eliminated by Kansas.

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