NIT Final Recap

by - Published April 3, 2006 in Columns

South Carolina Makes it Two Straight

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK – The seconds wound down and the Garden buzzer sounded. Instantly the “repeat” signs were raised by fans behind the South Carolina bench. The Gamecocks prevailed 76-64 to earn the championship of the 69th National Invitation Tournament.

South Carolina drew first blood, jumping out to an early 9-2 lead. Michigan quickly called a thirty-second timeout.

“During that time out I reminded our kids,” South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. “Louisville had us down (in the semis) 9-2 early and we came back. I reminded that they need a good forty minute effort.”

For the most part the Gamecocks showed it. They enjoyed a 12-point halftime lead. Turnovers usually resulting in transition plus a strong defensive effort were the keys. Michigan was limited to 42 percent shooting at the break, which included an icy 1-of-9 beyond the arc.

South Carolina didn’t let up after intermission. They played the aggressor and had the margin at 17 just three minutes into the half. Each game it is common for a trailing ballclub to stage a significant rally. For Michigan, the significant run never came.

“Every time it seemed like we had a moment that could keep a run going or put a dent in a big lead,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said, “we missed a layup or got blocked, and sometimes those misses turned into a transition for them.” In the stretch Michigan got within 10, but the Gamecocks made the necessary plays and were never really threatened as they closed out the victory.

Tarence Kinsey of South Carolina paced all scorers with 21 points. Kinsey had excellent help. Renaldo Balkman scored 10, but did the hard work in the paint by pulling down 11 boards and blocking 6 shots to earn the tournament MVP award. Tre’ Kelley played an outstanding floor game with 20 points and seven assists. Daniel Horton closed out his Michigan career leading the Wolverines with 18 points.


  • Odom made a comparison of Renaldo Balkman likening him to Dennis Rodman. Turns out, Odom ran into Louisville coach Rick Pitino during a morning run in New York the day before the finals.
    “I talked to Rick (Pitino) about Balkman,” Odom said. “Since Rick had the experience in the NBA and the point of reference, I told him Balkman reminded me of a Dennis Rodman type. Both are not overly tall (Balkman is 6-8). Both rebound in double figures, they are not great shooters and their first step off the floor is tremendously quick.” Odom also added, “both players also can electrify the crowd in a positive way.” Balkman certainly did that for two days in New York with his energy, dunks, rebounds in traffic and dunks. Simply, he has the “good” qualities of a Dennis Rodman.
  • For South Carolina the championship did not come easy. The Gamecocks played 9 games in a 21-day period against a succession of tough competition. “We had four tough ballgames in the SEC tournament,” Odom said. The Gamecocks advanced to the SEC final and were edged by Florida, who eventually wound up in the NCAA Final Four at Indianapolis. Following the SEC, South Carolina defeated Western Kentucky in a NIT first round home game. The Gamecocks then defeated Florida State in overtime and Cincinnati, both on the road, to get to New York. En route to their title, Odom’s club defeated three straight number one seeds: Cincinnati, Louisville and Michigan. “I don’t know if I could believe we would beat three straight number one seeds if you told me that’s who we would face,” Odom said, “but I’ll tell you we wouldn’t be afraid of the challenge.”
  • Interestingly the final featured two significant players from the last two NIT finals, both playing their last collegiate game. Michigan guard Daniel Horton captured the 2004 MVP when he led the Wolverines to the championship over Rutgers. A year ago Tarence Kinsey hit the three-pointer with seconds remaining to defeat Saint Joseph’s in the final.
    In this final, Horton battled gallantly with an 18-point outing, but Michigan came up short. He did earn all-tournament honors. “He (Horton) has been an absolutely high level performer since he stepped on our campus,” Amaker said. “I’m going to miss him as a coach and a teacher. He’s been a special player for me.”
    Kinsey added 6 rebounds to his 21-point effort against Michigan. There were those who felt the 6-6 senior would be in line for the MVP. “Kinsey has had great success at Madison Square Garden the last two years,” Odom said. “Obviously he hat that shot to win it last year, but this season he just had a great NIT straight through.” Kinsey was also chosen to the all-tournament team and Odom noted Balkman’s post game gesture spoke volumes about chemistry and unselfishness. “In our locker room after the game Balkman got up and in gesture and words offered ‘half’ his NIT trophy to Kinsey,” Odom said. “He (Balkman) felt Kinsey was just as deserving of the award as he.”
  • The NIT repeat was the second in tournament history. St. John’s also did it in 1943-44. “A lot of the public today may not make much of back-to-back NIT titles,” Odom said. “But I know we are proud and our university is also very proud of the accomplishment. Part of being the second team to perform the feat means South Carolina is mentioned now with those great St. John’s teams that were able to repeat sixty years ago. “They were coached by Joe Lapchick,” Odom said, “who was not only an outstanding coach but is still revered today.”
  • Next on Odom’s itinerary was a trip to Indianapolis and the Final Four. “And I’ll be rooting like heck,” he said, “pulling for our two SEC schools Florida and LSU.”
  • Attendance on both nights was in the mid-7,000 range. Not good, not horrible considering the nearest school, Old Dominion was a good 5-6 hour trip away by car.
    C.M. Newton, the NIT selection committee chairman, is excited about the tournament. Newton and his staff are constantly looking to new ways and innovations to spice up the event. One possibility is to add another round at the garden. “It is so important to have teams come to New York and play at Madison Square Garden, Newton said. “Having a few more games here, not just the semifinals and final, could bring more teams in.”
    The committee has done a very wise thing utilizing the services of former NIT Executive Director Jack Powers. “We value Jack’s contributions and look forward to him staying on (committee) with us,” Newton Said. “Jack did a great job keeping this tournament going for years and we (college basketball) are all better for it.”


Taquan Dean, Louisville
Daniel Horton, Michigan
Tarence Kinsey, South Carolina
Tre’ Kelley, South Carolina
Most Outstanding Player: Renaldo Balkman, South Carolina

On The Baseline

  • Michigan’s cheer squad made it a point on the off day to sample the cuisine of New York. “Chinatown and Little Italy were awesome,” said junior Genevieve Borg. Four members of the squad though spent the morning taking a mechanical engineering midterm. It was proctored by the cheer moderator at the hotel.
  • Coach Dave Odom made it a point to say an appreciative thanks and pose for pictures with the mascot and two South Carolina cheerleaders, Marie and Ashley, who were in new York cheering both nights.


And Players? [4/02/06]

by - Published April 2, 2006 in Newswire

Everhart Taking Assistants With Him – And Players? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that new Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart has taken all three of his assistants at Northeastern with him. Kim Lewis, an assistant the past two seasons, as well as one-year assistants Daryn Freedman and Richard Pitino, form his staff at Duquesne. Pitino is the son of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. The paper also reported that sophomore center Shawn James, who led the nation in blocked shots this season, could follow the staff and transfer. James has won the Defensive Player of the Year award in two different conferences (America East and Colonial Athletic Association) in his two seasons thus far. [4/02/06]

National Semifinals [4/02/06]

by - Published April 2, 2006 in Newswire

NCAA Tournament 2006
Final Four – National Semifinals: Cinderella’s run is officially over. No. 3 Florida knocked off No. 11 George Mason 73-58 in the first game of the Final Four, ending the Patriots’ miraculous surge into the national semifinals. George Mason could not hit on long shots or layups with any regularity, two elements of the game that the Patriots had excelled at while beating the likes of No. 1 Connecticut, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 6 Michigan State.

Lee Humphrey was deadly for Florida, opening the second half with three consecutive three-pointers to stretch a five-point halftime lead to 14. As a team, Florida hit 12 three-pointers, the most in Final Four history. Corey Brewer also was solid for the Gators, tying Humphrey with 19 points to lead all scorers. Jai Lewis and Tony Skinn led the Patriots with 13 points apiece. Skinn hit the first three-pointer of the game for George Mason with less than four minutes remaining. Florida dominated the boards, exemplified in the final three minutes when the Gators grabbed three offensive rebounds to drain the clock from 2:30 to just more than 30 seconds.

The second game of the national semifinals was equally lopsided as No. 2 UCLA dominated No. 4 LSU 59-45, holding yet another NCAA Tournament opponent to less than 60 points. The Bruins also held No. 1 Memphis to 45 points in the Oakland regional final. With suffocating defense against LSU’s big, talented forwards, the Bruins needed only a modicum of offensive efficiency to bury the poor-shooting Tigers. But by shooting 58 percent from the field in the first half, the Bruins were well on their way to a route by halftime, leading 39-24.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute led UCLA with 17 points and was the only Bruin to play 30 minutes. Coach Ben Howland substituted regularly to keep his players fresh and wear down Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Tyrus Thomas. LSU’s stars combined to score only 19 points. The Bruins were also successful in limiting LSU’s second-chance opportunities, out-rebounding the Tigers by seven. Once LSU fell behind, the Tigers had little hope of recovering because three-point shooting has never been the team’s strong suit this season. And the Tigers failed to connect on any of their six three-point attempts. [4/02/06]

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