BYU Earns NIT Bid, Hosts UC Irvine Thursday

PROVO -- BYU accepted an invitation Sunday to participate in the 2002 National Invitation Tournament. The Cougars host Big West Conference regular season champion UC Irvine Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center. No live television coverage is anticipated.

Tickets for the game go on sale Monday at 8 a.m. at the Marriott Center ticket office or by calling 378-BYU1 or 800-322-BYU1. Tickets will be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis. Lower chair seats cost $14; upper chair $10; upper bench and faculty $8; and student with valid ID $5.

BYU will be appearing in its ninth NIT tournament. The Cougars have an 11-6 NIT record, including two NIT titles (1951 and 1966). BYU last played in the NIT in 2000, advancing to the quarterfinals with home wins over Bowling Green and Southern Illinois before losing at Notre Dame. BYU has participated in the NIT in 1951, 1953, 1954, 1966, 1982, 1986, 1994 and 2000.

The Cougars are 17-11 this season, including an upset of then No. 13 Stanford at the Las Vegas Showdown. BYU tied for fourth in the Mountain West Conference with a 7-7 league mark. BYU was eliminated from last week's MWC tournament by eventual tournament champion San Diego State in Thursday's quarterfinals in Las Vegas.

The Anteaters, alma mater of BYU head coach Steve Cleveland, earned their second straight Big West regular season title in 2002, sharing this year's honor with Utah State (13-5 record). UC Irvine is 21-10 overall and is led by two-time Big West Player of the Year Jerry Green (20.6 ppg). The Anteaters were upset by eventual tournament champion UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals of last week's Big West tournament in Anaheim, Calif.

BYU has a 2-1 advantage over UC Irvine in the overall series. The two teams split a recent two-game series with UCI winning in Irvine, 82-75, on Dec. 22, 1998 and BYU earning victory, 77-66, on Jan. 5, 2000.