The Buckeyes are a bridesmaid no more. After coming up short in the championship game in football and basketball Ohio State (24-13) got a taste of satisfaction in the Postseason NIT championship with a 92-85 win over UMASS (25-11) in the final collegiate game for Jamar Butler, Othello Hunter and Matt Terwilliger.
Kosta Koufos led the Buckeyes with 23 points and scored 14 of 16 points for the Buckeyes during a crucial 2nd half stretch. Evan Turner connected for 20 points and 6 rebounds. Butler knocked down 19 points including 3-6 from beyond the arc and had seven dimes while Hunter had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The action in the first half went back and forth with both teams treading leads until the Bucks took a 19-17 lead after a pair of Evan Turner made free throws. The Minutemen started to pull away after that on long distance shooting from Ricky Harris. The sophomore guard led all scorers with 27 points and was shooting out of his mind from three point land hitting 7 of 12. UMASS connected on 12 of 32 from outside but the Buckeyes were hot too hitting on 10-19 for a blistering 53-percent.
Ohio State trailed by as many as ten points in the first half after Gary Forbes knocked down his only three pointer of the night. The Buckeyes got healthy in a hurry with a pair of Turner triples and a Butler three pointer to boot. Ohio State would close the lead to three points but after a pair of UMASS free throws the margin was back up to five with Ohio State trailing 41-36.
During the first 20 minutes the Buckeyes were out-rebounded by ten boards (23-13) and because of that the Minutemen attempted ten more shots. Both teams were sloppy with the ball combining for 19 first half turnovers (11 OSU – UMASS 8).
The Buckeyes came out strong in the second half and took a lead after Butler stole the ball and took it cross court for an easy lay-up to give Ohio State a 44-43 lead. The Buckeyes would see the lead swell to seven points off of some big shooting from Othello Hunter including a rare three pointer from the senior power forward.
UMASS would cut the lead back to four before Koufos stepped up. The big man knocked down 5 of 6 free throws on the night and showed good presence down in the paint and also had a mid-range baseline jumped dialed in. Koufos' run was only interrupted by a Dallas Lauderdale follow slam. While it was essentially a one man show for Ohio State the Minutemen would cut the lead to one point. Forbes cut the game to 72-71 but didn't have his best shooting night going 6-21 from the field.
Koufos backed his man down to put the Bucks back up three before Butler got another lay-up to go. UMASS had one more run left in them with the seventh three pointer by Harris to take it back down to two points but Ohio State got a big dunk by Hunter followed by a dagger of a trip by Butler to take it back up to seven.
This marks the second time that the Buckeyes have won the NIT championship after winning it in 1986 against Wyoming. Dennis Hopson and Brad Sellers combined for 43 points.
While Buckeye fans know that they won't see Butler, Hunter or Terwilliger in an Ohio State uniform again it will be a long wait to see if Koufos will return for his sophomore season.
Ohio State scored 56 points in the second half and shot 55 percent from the field. Despite the win the Buckeyes were still out-rebounded by nine on the night but took care of business inside the paint blocking 12 shots with Turner and Lauderdale each swatting three shots a piece. Terwilliger had 3 points on 1-3 from the field in his final game as a Buckeye.
Ohio State – Koufos 23, Turner 20, Butler 19, Hunter 17
UMASS – Harris 27, Brower 17, Forbes 16, Milligan 14
Ohio State – Hunter 10, Koufos 9, Turner 6, Lighty 5
UMASS – Brower 13, Bonner 6, Forbes 5
Ohio State – Butler 7, Turner 4, Lighty3
UMASS – Lowe 8, Forbes 3, 2 tied at 2
Ohio State – Turner 3, Lauderdale 3, Koufos 2, Butler 2, Hunter 2
UMASS - 2 tied at 1