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March 14, 2002

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Ticker) — The late-season slide that knocked Virginia out of NCAA Tournament consideration continued right into the National Invitation Tournament.

A disappointing season came to an end for the Cavaliers, who lost for the 10th time in 13 games when they were beaten, 74-67, by South Carolina in the NIT’s first round.

Ranked 16 of 19 weeks during the season and as high as sixth, coach Pete Gillen’s squad stumbled during the last three weeks and finished 17-12. The Cavaliers lost by 20 points to North Carolina State in the ACC tournament quarterfinals and played poorly in the second half on their home floor in this one.

“We had the fire in spurts, but didn’t have the fire the whole night,” Gillen said. “South Carolina is a good team, but this is a game we could have won at home.”

Ivan Howell scored 24 points for South Carolina (19-14), which advanced to face Nevada-Las Vegas in the second round.

“We feel extremely well about coming up to Charlottesville and winning,” said South Carolina coach Dave Odom, who was an assistant at Virginia under former coach Terry Holland. “We look forward to moving ahead and hoping things go well against whoever we play, wherever we play and whenever we play.”

Aaron Lucas scored 16 points, Jamel Bradley added 14 and Tony Kitchings 10 and 13 rebounds for the Gamecocks, who shot 52 percent (30-of-58) from the field.

Travis Watson had 26 points and 13 rebounds but was Virginia’s only double-figure scorer. He also sat down down midway through the second half with four fouls, which hurt the Cavaliers.

Watson helped Virginia to a 33-27 halftime lead. But the Cavaliers cooled off in the second half and allowed South Carolina to shoot 61 percent (17-of-28).

“We made some big turnovers in the second half and didn’t defend like we needed to,” Gillen said. “I don’t know if we got tired, we just didn’t defend.”

Virginia’s Roger Mason was held to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting. Overall, the Cavaliers shot 53 percent (29-of-55) but just 4-of-19 from 3-point range.