NIT Finals Recap
by Phil Kasiecki
In the NIT Championship game on Thursday night, Memphis shot 49%#37; from the field and held South Carolina to just 34.3%#37; shooting en route to taking home the NIT title with a 72-62 victory at Madison Square Garden.
The Tigers got a huge night from an unexpected source of offense: center Earl Barron. Normally a defensive specialist on the post, Barron had 25 points on 11 of 14 shooting and hauled down seven rebounds, and was complemented by tournament MVP DaJuan Wagner, who had 16 points.
Rolando Howell had 20 points and 15 rebounds for South Carolina, but he was the only one who really got going for the Gamecocks. Starting guards Aaron Lucas and Jamel Bradley each shot 3 for 10 from the field, and Chuck Eidson missed all seven of his field goal attempts. Tony Kitchings’ 4 for 13 effort in the middle also hurt this team.
After losing in the NIT title game last season, the Tigers won despite 18 turnovers, 10 from the starting backcourt of Anthony Burks and Wagner. They finish the season 27-9, and for the next month or so, the question will be whether or not Wagner will come back for another year. When he was taken out of the game in the final minute, Memphis fans were chanting “One more year”.
In the consolation game that started the evening, Temple took third place with a 64-54 win over Syracuse. The Owls held Syracuse scoreless for over six minutes in the second half, and won the game at the foul line: they made 20 of 23, while Syracuse made just 8 of 21 free throws. The teams combined to shoot just over 36%#37; from the field.