Big Ole Miss Comeback Falls Short to Ohio State in NIT Semifinals
NEW YORK (AP) - Down by as much as 27, Ole Miss trimmed Ohio State's lead down to seven inside the final two minutes but could not complete the comeback in a 81-69 loss in the NIT Semifinals Tuesday night at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Jamar Butler and Evan Turner scored 17 each, and the Buckeyes used a buckling halfcourt trap and an early 14-0 run to beat Ole Miss. Ohio State (23-13) will play Massachusetts in the championship Thursday night.
Ole Miss (24-11) tried to summon some magic in the second half, slapping on its own trap and slowly whittling down the 27-point deficit.
The lead was 56-38 when freshman Chris Warren hit a 3-pointer and Trevor Gaskins followed with a pair of free throws - the first points by a nonstarter for Ole Miss. Seconds later, Kenny Williams converted a turnover by Butler to make it 56-45 with 12 minutes left.
The Rebels put one last run together, with Warren hitting three 3s on consecutive possessions to get within 75-68 with 1:32 remaining. But Butler, the all-Big Ten guard, scored on a driving layup to help put the game away.
"Jamar Butler is their engine, and every time they needed a play it went through him," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "That's what seniors should do."
Warren had 18 points for Ole Miss, which already had the second-most wins in school history despite having three freshman and two sophomores in its regular rotation. David Huertas added 16 points, Dwayne Curtis had 12 points and 15 rebounds, and Williams scored 11.
The youthful Rebels seemed to settle down after a bleak first half, when Ohio State picked them up at the midcourt line and pressured them into turnover after turnover.
The game was tied when the Buckeyes went on their big run, getting eight of 14 straight points off turnovers and taking a 27-10 lead on a jumper by Turner with 10:20 to go.
"I just experienced a coach's worst nightmare, to come on a big stage and start the game the way we did," Kennedy said. "The hole we dug was insurmountable."
Part of the problem was an incredible disparity on the boards.
Ole Miss had been outrebounding its opponents by six per game and upset Virginia Tech in the NIT quarterfinals with a 46-23 advantage, but watched Ohio State pull down 50 rebounds against just 37 for the Rebels.
"That is the first time we've been outrebounded by double-figures all year. That's what we do," Kennedy said. "But they came and answered that question early."
David Lighty and Kosta Koufas added 16 points each for the Buckeyes, who lost Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook to the NBA draft from last year's national runner-up - a crippling blow to most programs.
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