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NIT notebook

©Associated Press, published March 29, 2001

Ohio State women rally for title 62-61

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Jamie Lewis scored 19 points, including a pair of late three-pointers, as the Ohio State women beat New Mexico 62-61 Wednesday in the championship game.

Ohio State (22-11) trailed 36-24 in the opening minute of the second half but used a 14-4 run to cut the deficit to 40-38 with just over 13 minutes left.

New Mexico (22-13) built its lead back to 48-40 on a three-pointer by Miranda Sanchez, but the Buckeyes battled back behind Lewis, center Courtney Coleman and freshman Caity Matter.

Coleman hit a pair of layups off passes from Lewis, and Matter converted a pair of turnovers by New Mexico point guard Nikki Heckroth into back-to-back baskets to tie the score at 50 with 5:05 left.

Ohio State took the lead for good at 56-54 on consecutive three-pointers by Lewis. Matter and D'wan Shackleford each hit a pair of free throws in the final 34 seconds.

Men's coaches make pitch

NEW YORK -- Neither Alabama coach Mark Gottfried nor Tulsa coach Buzz Peterson wants to make a return trip to the NIT.

But both hope the opportunity is there if they need it.

The status of the nation's oldest tournament is in jeopardy as the NCAA considers legislation next month that could lead to the elimination of the preseason tournament that finances the NIT.

"I love the NIT," said Peterson, whose team plays Alabama (25-10) in tonight's championship game. "I can't tell you how fulfilling this has been as a coach, a staff and players. It made our season. Take this away and it would be cheating the kids. It really would be."

The conference commissioners voted in September to eliminate the exemption that allows events such as the Preseason NIT, Maui Invitational and Great Alaska Shootout to count as one game on a school's 28-game schedule regardless of how many games a team plays.

That would effectively eliminate the tournaments. Most teams would be unwilling to commit to three or four games.

Without the revenue from the preseason event, NIT officials said, they would have a hard time putting together the post-season event, which has struggled to generate much interest.

Tuesday night's semifinals, featuring no teams from the Northeast, drew 6,597. But the coaches don't believe that moving the event to a smaller, more accessible city would be good for the NIT.

"If the NIT moved around, it would certainly lose its luster," Gottfried said. "It has a lot of history and tradition. It's a chance to come to New York. It's a great experience for the teams and a positive for college basketball."

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