Massachusetts' Chaz Williams defends Stanford's Aaron Bright (2) during the...

Massachusetts' Chaz Williams defends Stanford's Aaron Bright (2) during the first half. (March 27, 2012) Credit: AP

Stanford played two preseason NIT games at Madison Square Garden last November, and Tuesday night, that experience of playing in the building helped it beat Massachusetts, 74-64, in an NIT postseason semifinal.

"For our kids, who have already experienced it, there is an advantage," said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team overcame a pro-Massachusetts crowd. "We're not looking up in the rafters because we've already done that."

Stanford (25-11) faces Minnesota in the final Thursday.

Wednesday night's game was closer than the final score. Massachusetts (25-12), which trailed 36-33 at halftime, tied it at 52 on a driving layup by Chaz Williams with 7:18 left. But Stanford's Anthony Brown scored seven of his 18 points during a 15-4 run that gave the Cardinal a 67-56 lead with 1:49 left.

Josh Owens had 15 points and 12 rebounds in the win.

"The team wasn't shooting well and there was a change of momentum," Brown said. "I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team out."

Stanford limited UMass' Williams in the paint. The Hofstra transfer scored 19 points, but shot 7-for-18, had four turnovers and played limited minutes because of foul trouble and a leg injury.

"Well, you can't defend him with one player, that's for sure," Dawkins said. "We tried to crowd him as much as we could."

Minnesota 68, Washington 67: In the second semifinal, Andre Hollins scored five of his 20 points in overtime and Rodney Williams had 18 points for the Gophers (23-14). Washington (24-11) trailed 38-26 at the half but forced overtime after C.J. Wilcox's layup tied the score at 61 with 19 seconds left. Terrence Ross led Washington with 20 points.