March 30, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) - With consecutive NIT championships, South Carolina coach Dave Odom and Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick now have something in common.
And that's as far as Odom wanted to go with comparing his team to Lapchick's St. John's squads that won back-to-back titles in 1943 and 1944, when the NIT was even more prestigious than the NCAA tournament.
"I don't know that our team rivals that, and I certainly don't rival him, but the accomplishment remains the same," Odom said. "We did win two back-to-back and for that I am thankful and very, very proud."
"When you look at the leadership Tarence had, you'll have to go back a long way to find a player who has had more success in the NIT than Kinsey has had in two years," Odom said of his senior, who hit the game-winning shot last year in South Carolina's victory over Saint Joseph's.
With four starters back from last year's squad, the Gamecocks began the season with hopes to graduate to an NCAA tournament berth. That didn't work out, though South Carolina (23-15) made a late run at an automatic NCAA bid before losing the Southeastern Conference title game 49-47 to Florida.
"It always comes back to you need to get to the NCAA tournament and you need to play for the national championship," Odom said. "That does not demean this at all."
Back in the NIT, the Gamecocks made the most of it. Kentucky was the only other team ever to play in consecutive championship games (1946-47).
"It means a lot to us," said Kinsey. "To go out with a win in our last game is great."
The SEC could make it a tournament sweep with Florida and LSU playing the NCAA Final Four on Saturday.
Renaldo Balkman added 10 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks and was named the MVP of the tournament for South Carolina.
"He was phenomenal," Kinsey said. "He got every rebound and blocked shots."
Daniel Horton, who was the MVP of the 2004 NIT, scored 18 points to lead Michigan (22-10), which was trying to win its second championship in three years.
"He's been everything," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "He's been an absolute high-level competitor since the day he stepped foot on campus."
Chris Hunter and Brent Petway each added 12 for Michigan, which won the title in 2004 with most of the same players who led this year's run to Madison Square Garden.
Trailing 24-14, Michigan went on a 7-0 run to close to 24-21 on Ron Coleman's 3-pointer with 6:07 left in the half. Tempers flared soon after when Balkman blocked Petway's shot. Balkman grabbed the loose ball and caught Petway with an elbow in the lip. Petway responded, shoving Balkman to the floor for an intentional foul.
The play seemed to spark the Gamecocks, who closed the half on a 13-6 run. Dwayne Day hit two 3-pointers during the spurt as South Carolina built a 39-27 halftime lead.
"We had breakdowns," Amaker said. "You have to give them credit for how they played tonight."
South Carolina opened the second half with an 8-3 run as Kelley hit two 3-pointers to make it 47-30. Michigan could get no closer than nine the rest of the game.
"They came out stronger than we did," Horton said. "After that we fought them pretty much the whole way."
With the victory, Odom improved to 21-3 in the NIT and now has 100 wins with the Gamecocks. He also led Wake Forest to the title in 2000.
The Gamecocks advanced to the championship with a 78-63 win over Louisville on Tuesday night. Balkman scored 23 points and Kinsey added 21 in that win.
Courtney Sims scored 18 points to help Michigan beat Old Dominion 66-43 in the semifinals.
The Wolverines fell to 7-2 all-time in the semifinals and finals of the NIT. They also had won the championship in 1984, 1997.
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