March 24, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Jamar Butler scored 20 points and spurred a 17-2 first-half run with three 3-pointers to lead Ohio State past California 73-56 in an NIT second-round game on Monday night.
The Buckeyes (21-13) were helped along by an emotional return to their old home court.
The game was contested before a capacity crowd of 13,276 at 52-year-old St. John Arena. The Buckeyes' home court, Value City Arena, was hosting a concert by Bruce Springsteen on Monday night, so the game was shifted a few hundred yards away to where they played their home games a decade ago.
The Buckeyes, fifth in the Big Ten, advance to host a quarterfinal game on Wednesday night against the winner of the Dayton-llinois State game.
Kosta Koufos had 17 points and Othello Hunter controlled the paint with one of the best games of his career, grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds to go with 11 points.
The lead never dipped below 14 points again after the Buckeyes opened the second half with a 7-0 run to extend a spurt in which they outscored the Golden Bears 24-4 to take command.
The meeting was the first between the teams since the 1960 national championship game. Those Buckeyes, led by super sophs Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek, along with Joe Roberts, Larry Siegfried, Mel Nowell and a little-used sub named Bob Knight, beat the defending national champion Golden Bears of coach Pete Newell, 75-55 at the old Cow Palace in San Francisco.
It is Ohio State's only national championship in men's basketball.
The Buckeyes started out slowly, seemingly caught up in the moment because of a loud and boisterous crowd that showed up early and roared on every play. The atmosphere was decidedly non-NIT - more like a clash with a Big Ten heavyweight.
The change turned old St. John Arena - the most recent banner hanging from the rafters was for the 1992 Big Ten championship - into a hornets' nest.
Down 19-18 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Buckeyes scored 17 of the next 19 points for a 35-21 lead - Butler scoring nine points, all on 3s, along with three inside shots by Kosta Koufos and a follow by Othello Hunter.
They made just 1 of their first 11 shots behind the arc before Butler hit three - each met with a louder roar from the crowd. After Cal broke the spell to cut the lead to 35-23 on an Anderson drive, Butler made a bid for a fourth consecutive 3 but it spun out of the basket in the closing seconds.
Ohio State then ran off the first seven points of the second half to pull out of reach.