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Koufos, Butler lead Ohio State to NIT title

Apr 4, 2008 - 4:20 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Kosta Koufos scored 22 points and Jamar Butler added 19 to lead Ohio State to a 92-85 victory over Massachusetts in the final of the National Invitation Tournament on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Ohio State (24-13), which lost in last year's NCAA Tournament final, has now won a pair of NIT championships (1986).

The Buckeyes trailed 41-36 at the break but started the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 47-43 lead with 17:22 to play.

After losing to Florida in the national title game a year ago, the Buckeyes also lost freshmen Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. to the NBA. Bypassed for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State ended its second trip to the Garden this season on a much better note.

The Buckeyes reached the final of the NIT Season Tip-Off but were dismantled, 70-47, by Texas A&M.

"This is continuing a rebuilding of the program," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "It feels good after what we went through last season. We knew there were going to be some growing pains as we went through the season, especially with the schedule we were going to play. To watch them come together and play team basketball, very, very proud of them and very gratifying."

Koufos earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award and Evan Turner finished with 20 for the Buckeyes.

The Minutemen battled back to tie the game but Koufos hit a 3-pointer and picked up a loose ball and dunked to give the Buckeyes a 73-70 lead with 5:20 to go.

Ricky Harris hit a 3-pointer to pull UMass within 77-75 with 3:13 remaining but Ohio State went 7-of-10 from the line down the stretch and it was enough to close out the game.

"I'm just happy to come out on top with a win, my last game of my career at the Garden where it started this year," Butler said. "Proud of my teammates, coaches, and just happy right now."

Harris was 7-of-13 from the arc and scored 27 points and Etienne Brower added 17 for Massachusetts (25-10), which defeated two-time defending NCAA champion Florida in the semifinals on Tuesday.

"Very proud of these guys. It's been a very fun year, and a great year," Massachusetts coach Travis Ford said. "We played well. I thought Ohio State played great. To be honest with you, it's one of the best games I've seen them play."