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GRIFFS' YOUNG, COLLINS RUB ELBOWS WITH GARDEN CELEBS

Canisius guard Chris Young was in the center of the action Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden. He was close by on Tuesday as well.

Young hit a trio of second-half three-pointers to help the Griffs' resurrection during their 66-62 loss to Penn State in the NIT consolation game. The 5-foot-10 junior hit two of them in a 50-second span from well beyond the NBA three-point line.

"A couple fell for me, some other people start hitting big shots and we start all playing off each other," Young said. "We got some confidence and I really thought we could pull it out."

Mentioning Young and the NBA in the same sentence is the other part of this tale. All the Canisius players got tickets to the Knicks-Bulls game Tuesday and saw Michael Jordan's 55-point virtuoso routine. Young and backup center Ryan Collins had a bird's-eye view for the dramatic second half of Chicago's 113-111 victory.

"We're sitting way up in Section 300 (near the Garden roof) and Ryan and I walked down close at halftime to get some good pictures," Young recounted.

"We got some real nice ones of Michael. We're walking around to go back and the usher recognizes Ryan, said he saw our game Monday.

"I asked him if he could do us a favor and he put us down by the media. We got pictures taken with (comedian) Bill Murray and all kinds of ones with the Chicago bench."

Young and Collins stood the entire half on a corner of the floor level near the Bulls' bench.

"It was awesome," Young said. "The whole second second half, we were right with Connie Chung, Maury Povich, Phil Donahue, basically hanging out with all the people who make this city run. It was really exciting, well worth the trip."

Senior guard Damone James made his first start since January 1994, replacing struggling freshman Kevin Thompson.

James tied his season high with 11 points, nine in the second half.

"Especially in the second half, he did a very good job," said coach John Beilein. "In the last half of the year on the whole, he did a terrific job with ball control."

"I was real happy coach gave me the call tonight," James said. "Unfortunately, I wanted to go out a winner in my last game, especially in a starting role but it didn't happen.

"I still feel like a winner. It was my dream since I was a little kid to play in Madison Square Garden and it was a great feeling to play in the NIT."

James played in 119 career games, second in school history to Craig Wise's 121. Beilein also used senior walk-on John Gorman for a 74-second stint in the first half, his first non-garbage time appearance of the year. Gorman did not take a shot.

Wise's nine points, four rebounds and six assists pushed his final career totals in those categories to 1,799, 784 and 353, respectively. Wise ends up second in school history in points and rebounds and fourth in assists.

Center Micheal Meeks had a game-high nine rebounds to pass Mayor Anthony M. Masiello for sixth place with 636. Meeks ends his junior year with 1,340 points, seventh in school history, while Darrell Barley is 14th at 1,119.

The start of the game was pushed up 20 minutes, to 6:10 p.m., because a circus matinee in the Garden during the afternoon ended early.

The teams were summoned earlier in the day because tournament officials were worried the 6:30 tip-off might run into the ESPN telecast of the championship game, which was slated for 8:30.

The time had been a source of confusion all week; NIT releases usually said 6:30, while most tickets printed said 6 p.m.

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