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South Carolina repeats as men's NIT champions
The Associated Prss
NEW YORK -- South Carolina certainly didn't begin the season hoping to repeat as NIT champions.
The Gamecocks were, however, happy to end it that way and become only the second school to win consecutive NIT titles.
Tarence Kinsey scored 21 points and Tre' Kelley added 20 points and seven assists to help South Carolina beat Michigan 76-64 on Thursday night.
"It means a lot to our team, our university, our state," Gamecocks coach Dave Odom said.
With four starters back from last year's NIT champs, the Gamecocks began the season with hopes to graduate to an NCAA tournament berth this season. That didn't work out, though South Carolina (23-15) made a late run at an automatic bid before losing the Southeastern Conference title game 49-47 to Florida.
Back in the NIT, the Gamecocks made the most of it and joined St. John's, which won in 1943 and 1944, as the only teams to win back-to-back championships. Kentucky was the only other team to play in consecutive championship games (1946-47).
"It means a lot to us," Kinsey said. "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.
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," Michigan coach Tommy 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.
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 and 1997.