Buckeyes advance despite Oden's foul troubles

Published: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 2:41 a.m.

ATLANTA Due to a right wrist injury, Ohio State had to delay the beginning of the Greg Oden Era by seven games. On Saturday night at the Georgia Dome, that may have just gotten the Buckeyes into the national championship game.

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Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr. (1) and Ron Lewis enjoy the closing moments in a 67-60 win over Georgetown Saturday in Atlanta.

The Associated Press

With the 7-foot first-team AP All-American freshman center limited to just three minutes in the first half after committing two quick offensive fouls, Ohio State didn't find itself overwhelmed by the immense shadow cast by Georgetown's 7-2, 278-pound Roy Hibbert.

Instead, even with Hibbert effective when not sitting because of his own foul trouble, Oden's teammates carried the Buckeyes to a four-point halftime lead. And with its big man back for most of the second half, Ohio State allowed the Hoyas to get close, but never fell behind in the final 15:56 before ultimately winning 67-60.

"I hated the fact we played the first seven games without Greg," said Buckeyes' coach Thad Matta, whose program will play in its first NCAA title game since 1962 on Monday night. "But (this game) is another example where it probably helped us because (replacements Matt Terwilliger, Othello Hunter and Ivan Harris) never skipped a beat. They just came in and got the job done."

Despite Georgetown (30-7) leading at only three times all night (2-0, 5-3 and 34-33), the Hoyas did force four second-half ties, even with Big East player of the year Jeff Green (15.8 ppg in the tournament entering the game) limited to just nine points on five shots.

"They played great help-side defense with the other guy helping on the weak side," said Green, who did grab a game-high 12 rebounds. "It made it hard for my teammates to throw it down or try to find me. You've got to credit their defense. They played together."

Mainly, the Hoyas relied on guard Jonathan Wallace (19 points) and Hibbert, whose 19 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes may have slightly outshined Oden's 13 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes. And they needed all they could get from starters, as their bench was outscored 11-0.

The Buckeyes (35-3) got tremendous play out of freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr., a teammate of Oden's at Indianapolis' North Lawrence High School.

Playing on easily the biggest stage of his young career, Conley scored 15 points and had six assists. But perhaps most notably had just one turnover, helping his team to a 22-10 advantage in points off turnovers.

"That obviously was a key to the game," said Matta, whose team had eight turnovers to Georgetown's 14.

Contact John Patton at 374-5074 or pattonj@gvillesun.com.

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