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InsideHoops [College Basketball | NIT]

NIT Championship Game

 


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/ Apr. 1, 2005

NEW YORK CITY – The 2005 NIT final was a classic event, and as thrilling as any in recent memory.

The finals of the 68th NIT saw South Carolina and St. Joe’s battle it out over the full forty minutes. Players expended every ounce of physical and emotional energy.

The same could be said for the respective coaches and fans of both teams.

South Carolina emerged a 60-57 champion and took the NIT trophy back to Columbia. For St. Joe’s, it’s the culmination of a great run. The end of another magical year on Hawk Hill.

The final seconds alone brought a roller coaster of emotions. St. Joe’s Pat Carroll struggled from the perimeter all night but buried a trey from the left side to tie the game with just under ten seconds to play. Tarence Kinsey took the insuing inbounds pass and pushed the ball up the floor. He stopped from the right of the arc and launched a jumper that found nothing but net. There were .9 of a second left and St. Joe’s could only inbound, and was unable to get a good shot off.

The final South Carolina possession was laced in irony. From the four minute (remaining) mark and on, coach Dave Odom had been substituting Kinsey for defensive purposes with Josh Gonner for offense. Kinsey was on the floor when Carroll hit his game-tying three. Odom contemplated calling time out as South Carolina pushed the ball up court. “I had thoughts,” he said,”but felt St. Joe’s was playing such great defense I didn’t want to give them a chance to set up defensively (following a time out).” Odom went with his gut reaction then added,”it was probably the best move I didn’t make.”

Two big keys in the game were rebounding and post defense. “We didn’t rebound the defensive board as well as we should,” St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said. “If we did we would be the champions.” Post defense was something Odom stressed to his club. “We played (Pat) Carroll straight up (with Kinsey drawing the assignment) didn’t want a post defender to leave his man and try to double him,” Odom said. “Memphis did that and gave up a few easy dunks. Tonight it happened to us once.”

Carroll led St. Joe’s with 15 points but struggled with an icy 2-of-13 mark from beyond the arc. “Pat does not get frustrated’ Martelli said of his senior swingman who played so well all year. “The only shot that is important when you are shooting is the next shot. It is of utmost importance because you have to take that next shot thinking that it going to go in.”

Carroll had good looks and didn’t force the issue. Besides, St. Joe’s is far from a one-man club as Dwayne Jones (10 points), Dwayne Lee (13 points) and Chet Stachitas (11 points) contributed offensively.

Carlos Powell, the South Carolina senior forward who led all scorers in the NIT championship game with 16 points and was tough in the paint, was the 2005 NIT MVP, spoke on the court amidst the post game celebration. “This is my first championship since little league,” the Gamecocks senior forward said, beaming a wide smile. On that final possession Powell said, “I was right here (about 10 feet from the Gamecock bench). I saw him (Kinsey) come up and release the shot. I thought it looked good and as it got closer I said, oh man that’s got to go down.” It did and sent off a raucous celebration by Gamecock rooters who were drowned out by St. Joe’s fans a good part of the night.

It’s a players game, but in the NIT finals you had two outstanding coaches. Dave Odom of South Carolina looks more like a literature professor than a basketball coach. In fact, Odom is a teacher. His classroom or lecture hall is the 94 by 50 area of the basketball court. Odom began at mid major East Carolina then moved up to Wake Forest. He had a nice run there before heading to South Carolina in 2001. He doesn’t flood you with fancy quotes, but sit down and talk with him and you find Odom is a wealth of basketball knowledge.

Odom is not the slick, fast talking type that adores the limelight. His name is rarely mentioned when a North Carolina or Kansas job opens up. He just goes out and does his job as successfully and thoroughly as anyone around.

The NIT has been somewhat of a favorite for Odom. He won the title with Wake Forest in 2000 and finished as runner-up with South Carolina three years ago. On Thursday night he was once again cutting down the net.

Phil Martelli is a basketball fanatic who is a ‘lifer’ in the game. He will probably be a St. Joe’s lifer, and that is fine with him. Martelli passionately loves the small Philadelphia based catholic school. He can walk across campus and have students say ‘hi Phil’ or ‘good luck tonight Phil’. And he loves it.

Martelli's first year at the helm was in ‘96 when St. Joe’s advanced far in the NIT. A year later they were in the NCAA Sweet 16. He had three down years after that but quickly bounced back and has been to five straight post-season tournaments.

Last season was the magical ride that took the Hawks within a possession of the NCAA basketball Final Four.

This year might have been Martelli's best coaching job, as St. Joe’s started 3-6 . After some adjustments, the Hawks reeled off over 20 wins after the New Year.

Martelli is quick with the wit but he is all substance. He can coach with anyone, and genuinely cares about his players.

Several higher profile schools have inquired if he was interested but it was ‘thanks but no thanks’. Martelli is indebted to St. Joe’s, the school that gave him the break he needed, promoting him to head coach a decade ago.

As for the NIT championship game, two hours before tipoff St. Joe’s cheerleading coach Renee Poupard had her squad on the Garden floor practicing their routines in sweats. On Hawk Hill commitment and hard work is infectious. But the night would belong to South Carolina.

Attendance was 11,555 with more than a fair amount making the trip from Philadelphia.







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