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Early burst leads Ohio State into NIT finals

Apr 2, 2008 - 5:48 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Ohio State's early offensive surge gave the Buckeyes enough breathing room to hang on at the end.

Jamar Butler and freshman Evan Turner each scored 17 points to lead the Buckeyes to an 81-69 victory over Mississippi in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals on Tuesday.

David Lighty and freshman Kosta Koufos each added 16 points for Ohio State, which will face Massachusetts in the NIT championship on Thursday.

It was the fourth straight double-digit win for Ohio State, which has a 14 1/2-point margin of victory during the NIT run.

The Buckeyes (23-13) took control early in the first half, going on a 14-0 run to take a 22-8 advantage with 11:36 left in the half. Butler had six points during the run.

Mississippi could never cut the deficit to single digits, and Ohio State further distanced themselves with a 10-0 burst, extending the lead to 41-18, late in the first half.

The Buckeyes pushed the advantage up to 24 at the break as Mississippi shot just 29 percent (8-of-28) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.

The Rebels (24-11) attempted to make a run as David Huertas ignited a 13-3 run with back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled Mississippi within 56-45 with 12:02 left to play.

Ohio State maintained its double-digit advantage for most of the second half until Chris Warren's 3-pointer cut the Buckeyes' lead to 73-65 with just under 2 1/2 remaining.

Another Warren outside shot later cut the deficit to seven, but Butler made a layup with 1:12 left to play to push the lead to nine and end the Rebels' comeback bid.

The Buckeyes outrebounded Mississippi, 50-37, and forced the Rebels to commit 21 turnovers.

The freshman Warren finished with 19 points and Huertas had 16 to lead Mississippi, which made just 9-of-20 from the foul line.

Senior Dwayne Curtis had 12 points and 15 rebounds for his 18th double-double of the season.