Friday, April 4, 2008
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NEW YORK - A year removed from a loss in the national title game, Ohio State has a championship trophy to carry home.
Nevermind that it's from the NIT. Jamar Butler and his buddies couldn't care less.
Butler had 19 points and eight assists in his final college game, leading Ohio State to a 92-85 victory over Massachusetts on Thursday night and prompting the victory celebration inside Madison Square Garden that they couldn't have last year in Atlanta.
The Buckeyes lost to Florida in last year's Final Four, but never dwelled on a snub by the NCAA selection committee that kept them from playing for another trip there. They dominated each of their four opponents on the way to New York, then had enough at the end to withstand every run the Minutemen could muster.
Kosta Koufos added 22 points in earning the tournament's most outstanding player award. Evan Turner finished with 20 for the Buckeyes (24-13), who reached the preseason NIT title game but were run out of the Garden by Texas A&M.
Ricky Harris scored 27 for UMass (25-11), hitting three 3-pointers in the closing minutes.
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-pointe to give Ohio State some breathing room.