They were the last SEC team left standing on the last day of March and they were determinded to represent for their conference, their fans and families and themselves. In the process the USC Gamecocks made a statement for next year as they finished strong this year by bringing home their first ever NIT Championship Trophy.
Senior Carlos Powell, playing in his last game as a Gamecock, led the way with 16 points in the final game and he 31 points while snatching 16 rebounds in his final two games total. He was named the Tournament MVP for his effort.
But it was the way this tournament finished that will be most remembered as Saint Joseph's Pat Carroll tied it at 57 with 7.4 seconds remaining in what appeared to be headed to an overtime game.
Tarence Kinsey wasn't in the mood for an overtime game.
Kinsey took the inbounds pass, turned down the opportunity to call a timeout, and instead calmly shuffled downcourt surveying the defense before pulling up from the left shoulder of the arch and nailing a 3 with 0.9 ticks left on the clock.
Final: SC 60, St. Joes 57.
The Gamecock fans in attendance, a rabid and noisy minority, went wild. NIT officials were quick to call it one of the most exciting tournament finishes in the storied history of Madison Square Garden basketball ... a place where former Gamecock great New Yorkers such as Frank McGuire, Brian Winters, John Roche, Bobby Cremins and others failed to win a title - Dave Odom's Gamecocks succeeded.
Odom is now 16-3 overall in NIT games. South Carolina (20-13) reached 20 wins for the third time in coach Dave Odom's first four seasons in Columbia. The Cocks lost the 2002 NIT title game to Memphis.
It was the first loss for St. Joseph in their last fifteen games when holding an opponent to sixty points or less.
It was a fitting end to a strange season for the Gamecocks who had lost too many games in overtime and/or by last second shots to count during the 2004-2005 campaign. That they would win the NIT Championship game on a last second three was ironic. That and the fact that the game, in retrospect, may have actually been won at the free throw line by SC (15-21) - the 321st worst free throw shooting team in the country out of 330 - but tonight even Antoine Tisby went 3 of 4 from the line and that was too much for the Hawks.
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