NEW YORK — Tarence Kinsey was a timeout away from being a spectator instead of the hero.
Known more for defense, Kinsey hit a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to lift South Carolina to a 60-57 victory Thursday night in the NIT championship game.
After Pat Carroll tied it with a 3 for Saint Joseph’s at the end of a miserable night for the sharpshooter, Kinsey came up the floor and nailed the winning jumper from the right elbow.
“I figured if I miss we’re in OT,” Kinsey said. “I didn’t want to pass because of the time so I said, ‘Why not take the shot?’ “
He was only in the game to guard Carroll, who went 5 for 19, including 2 of 13 from 3-point range. Coach Dave Odom was about to call timeout and get his shooter, Josh Gonner, back in the game.
But Odom didn’t pull the trigger.
“I didn’t want their defense to set for the last play. So I swallowed my tongue, or whatever,” Odom said. “The irony is, had I called a timeout, I would have put Josh in and taken Tarence out — no question.”
South Carolina was only the second team in the NIT to get to 60 points against the Hawks, who controlled the tempo with ball control and good defense.
“I felt if we could hit 60 we would win,” Odom said. “I didn’t know it would come on the last shot.”
Kinsey let his winning shot go just 6 seconds after Carroll tied it for the Hawks (24-12). But that was one of the few shots Carroll, the Atlantic 10 co-player of the year, could get to go down.
The Hawks started 3-6 in the follow-up season to their run to the NCAA round of eight in 2004. But they turned it around and went 21-6 after Jan. 1.
Carroll’s stellar career ended with a 15-point performance, after averaging 20.6 in the Hawks’ first five NIT games.
“You’re going to have good nights and bad nights as a basketball player. Tonight was definitely a bad night,” Carroll said. “The only thing I wanted to do as a player was have no regrets.
“I am proud of the team because everybody gave everything they’ve got and that’s all you can ask for.”
Carlos Powell scored a game-high 16 points and was chosen tournament MVP, showing no problems with the right forearm strain he sustained in the semifinal victory over Maryland on Tuesday. He had 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in his final two games with South Carolina.
South Carolina (20-13) reached 20 wins for the third time in Odom’s four seasons. The Gamecocks lost the 2002 NIT title game to Memphis.
Odom improved to 16-3 in the NIT. He won also won it in 2000 with Wake Forest.
Tre’ Kelley gave South Carolina a 50-49 lead with a layup at 2:20. His 3-point attempt less than a minute later rimmed out, but Rocky Trice was fouled while grabbing the rebound and made both free throws.
Dwayne Lee cut it to 52-51 with a driving layup with 1:02 left, but Powell answered with a drive to push the lead back up to three points.
Kinsey made two free throws to make it 56-51 with 27.4 seconds remaining, 7 seconds before Chet Stachitas hit a 3-pointer to bring the Hawks within two.
Trice went 1 for 2 from the line, giving the Hawks a chance to tie with 19.6 seconds left.
Stachitas went up for a quick 3, but it was swatted out of bounds by Brandon Wallace with 13.5 seconds on the clock. Carroll got free after the inbounds and drilled the tying shot from in front of his bench.
“Even though Pat’s shot wasn’t going like it usually is, I always believed,” fellow senior John Bryant said.
The crowd of 11,555 — made up of mostly Saint Joseph’s fans — erupted only to have their cheers silenced seconds later by Kinsey’s only 3.
Saint Joseph’s came out hot in the second half, hitting three 3s in the first 3:13 after the break and grabbing a 40-34 lead. But the Hawks only scored from the foul line for the next 10 1/2 minutes.
Carroll, who missed his first five shots of the second half, broke the drought with 6:26 remaining when his basket got the Hawks even at 47.
Saint Joseph’s got to the title game the hard way, starting in the opening round and playing four times before reaching New York. Of the final four, only the Hawks played in the opening round and they were the only team play on the road before reaching Madison Square Garden.
A Paul Bunyan burger, a couple of Coors; will you be my Valentine if I will be yours? The Bard of Sherman Avenue
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