Buckeyes prove their point with NIT title
By Dave Skretta
NEW YORK ó In a locker room outburst equal parts joy and angst, Jamar Butler finally dropped the charade Ohio State had been playing for nearly three weeks and revealed its main motivating factor for a roughshod run through the NIT.
iThis is what happens when you put an NCAA tournament team in the NIT,î Butler yelled, surrounded by his teammates after beating Massachusetts 92-85 in the title game Thursday night. iWrite that down and send that to the committee.î
A year removed from a loss in the national championship game, the Buckeyes have a trophy to carry home ó even if itís not the one they had wanted.
iKind of a sore loser,î coach Thad Matta said, when asked whether he would watch the Final Four this weekend. iI donít know what Iím going to do. I think Iím going to rest.î
Butler had 19 points and eight assists in his final college game, which culminated with the kind of raucous victory celebration inside Madison Square Garden that he couldnít have last year in Atlanta.
The Buckeyes lost to Florida in the Final Four, and a snub by the NCAA selection committee kept them from playing for another trip there. They rebounded to dominate each of their four opponents on the way to New York, then had enough to withstand every UMass run.
iIn 24 hours Iíve probably watched 10 or 12 games they played,î Minutemen coach Travis Ford said, iand I never saw them shoot like that.î
Kosta Koufos added 22 points and earned the tournamentís most outstanding player award. Evan Turner finished with 20 for the Buckeyes (24-13), who shot 63 percent (19-of-30) from the field in the second half.
iThey had their press coming at us,î Butler said, iand once we broke out, I think we were fine on the open floor and I think we made great plays.î
Ricky Harris scored 27 for UMass (25-11), hitting three 3-pointers in the closing minutes to help the Minutemen stay close.
The last of them made it 77-75 with 3:13 left, but Othello Hunter scored moments later and after Harris missed another 3 try at the other end, Butler drained a 3-pointer from the wing to give Ohio State some breathing room.
Turner took care of things from the free-throw line over the final minute and a half, helping the Buckeyes wrap up the title.