LaPhonso Ellis sank five free throws in the final 86 seconds as Notre Dame held off Iowa, 77-68, last night in South Bend, Ind., to advance to the semifinals of the preseason NIT tournament.

The victory sends Notre Dame (2-0) against No. 3 Arizona Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. No. 2 Arkansas faces No. 6 Duke in the other semifinal, with the winners meeting for the championship on Friday night.

Acie Earl, who hit the game-winning shot in the opening round against No. 19 Temple with six seconds left, brought the Hawkeyes (1-1) within 64-63 by sinking two free throws with 2:04 left.

But Iowa's overaggressive defense put Notre Dame on the foul line seven times in the final 1:26, and the Irish converted the opportunities into nine points.

Elmer Bennett led the Irish with 21 points and Ellis finished with 20. James Moses led Iowa with 11.

Iowa took a 43-42 lead seven minutes into the second half on a 9-0 run that was capped by two baskets by Kevin Smith off steals. But the Hawkeyes couldn't hold the lead after trailing for most of the first half.

The freshmen reserves who sparked a sluggish Notre Dame offense in a 56-46 first-round victory over Fordham largely stayed on the bench.

The Irish starters took control early, scoring all but four of Notre Dame's first-half points, including four apiece from Bennett and Tim Singleton in an 11-point streak for a 20-12 lead.

UNLV 109, Soviets 80: All-American Larry Johnson totaled 38 points and 20 rebounds to lead No. 1 UNLV past the Soviet national team in Las Vegas.

The Runnin' Rebels led by 38 points with 10:45 remaining after three-pointers by Johnson, Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony. Hunt finished with 19 points and Anthony had 12. Johnson played only 25 minutes.

Oleg Meleshenko led the Soviets with 21 points. UNLV, the 1989-90 national champion, has won all four of its meetings with the Soviets.

St. John's 88, Melbourne (Australia) 83: Rob Werdann and Scott Shawnell each had six points as the Redmen scored the first 16 points of the second half to overtake the Tigers in an exhibition game in New York.

Malik Sealy led the Redmen, who trailed 51-41 at halftime, with 28 points. Werdann followed with 17 and Shawnell with 12.

Bridgewater 83, Marymount 76: Todd Rush scored a team-high 19 for the victors in the Marymount Tip-Off tournament in Arlington. Robert Spencer led the Saints with a game-best 24 points.

Alvernia 77, Gallaudet 70: Guard Anthony Jones poured in a team-high 31 points, but the Bison lost in the first round of the St. John Fisher tournament. Forward Brian Bippus added 15 for Gallaudet.