South Carolina 69, Florida St 68, OT

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)—The South Carolina Gamecocks thought they had already won the game in regulation. They made sure of it in overtime.

Tarence Kinsey hit three free throws in the final 26 seconds and South Carolina beat Florida State 69-68 Tuesday night to keep alive its hopes of becoming just the second school to repeat as NIT champions.

Kinsey’s final two free throws with 10 seconds left gave the Gamecocks as 69-66 lead.

“I just tried to not worry about the crowd and take my time,” said Kinsey, who made 86.1 percent of his free throws this season.

“I was hoping they’d pass me the ball,” said Kinsey. “I’m the best free throw shooter on the team.”

Todd Galloway’s two free throws got Florida State within one with 5 seconds left and the Seminoles stole the inbounds pass, but Galloway’s desperation jumper was blocked by Rocky Trice as the game ended.

The Gamecocks (20-15) thought they had the game won in regulation when Renaldo Balkman banked in a short jumper at the buzzer with the game tied at 58, but officials ruled it was too late.

“I thought it should’ve counted,” said South Carolina coach Dave Odom, who argued vociferously with the referees about their decision that forced the overtime. “They (players) were coercing me to come into the huddle and let’s get the next play started. They weren’t there with their heads down, it was the opposite.”

Balkman’s tip-in and Tre Kelley’s layup gave South Carolina a quick 62-58 lead in the overtime but Alexander Johnson hit a pair of free throws and Al Thornton scored underneath to tie it at 62.

Kelley then drove the lane again for a layup and South Carolina didn’t trail again.

“When we’ve played well, he’s done well,” Odom said.

It’s the third straight 20-win season for the Gamecocks, who advance to meet Cincinnati on Thursday with a spot in the NIT semifinals in New York City at stake. They are trying to become the first team since St. John’s in 1943 and 1944 to win successive NIT titles.

Kelley scored 17 points for the Gamecocks. Kinsey, a senior from Tampa, finished with 14 points, Trice 12, and Brandon Wallace 11. Balkman had eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Johnson led Florida State (20-10) with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Isaiah Swann scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half.

Swann scored 10 of those points during a 13-0 run that boosted the Seminoles into a 59-44 lead that grew to 52-46 with 5:31 left.

“It took awhile to get him under control,” said Odom, who recalled previous Florida State guards Charlie Ward and Sam Cassell from his days coaching at Wake Forest.

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton thought his team lost their chance to put the game away at that point.

“During that period is where we lost control of the game,” he said.

“We had opportunities to keep them at bay,” Hamilton said. “We missed a layup and a couple rebounds we didn’t get. During that little period is where we lost at control of the game.

Bryce Sheldon’s 3-point basket capped a 7-0 run that put South Carolina back into the lead at 53-52 and the teams scrambled to the finish.

“I guess all things have to come to an end,” said Hamilton, after bouncing back from last year’s 12-19 record and getting the school’s first winning season in Atlantic Coast Conference play since the 1992-93 season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 South Carolina
T. Kelley T. Kelley
8-20,  17 Pts
5 Rebs, 6 Assists
 Florida St.
A. Johnson A. Johnson
10-16,  22 Pts
10 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists