Oden’s last-second swat sends Vols home
San Antonio, TX (Sports Network) – Greg Oden was limited in his time on the
floor due to foul trouble, but the freshman sensation made the most of his
opportunity by blocking Ramar Smith’s shot at the buzzer, keeping Ohio State
alive in the NCAA Tournament with an 85-84 victory over Tennessee.
Ron Lewis scored 25 points for the top-seeded Buckeyes (33-3), who extended
their winning streak to 20 games, but not before rallying from a 20-point
deficit in the first half. Mike Conley Jr. put Ohio State ahead with one free
throw with 6.5 seconds left, and the Buckeyes survived.
“It came down to the last minute and could have gone either way,” Ohio State
coach Thad Matta said. “I’m proud of the way we came back in the second half
and we were able to make the plays down the stretch in the basketball game to
Ohio State will play in the South Regional final Saturday against Memphis,
which edged Texas A&M, 65-64, in the first game Thursday night at the
Chris Lofton led the fifth-seeded Volunteers (24-11) with 24 points and Smith
ended with 15. The Vols lost despite shooting 16-of-31 from three-point range.
“The starters played poorly at the beginning of the second half,” Tennessee’s
Dane Bradshaw said. “We never got overconfident because we’re all in the
locker room at halftime saying like we’re down 10. Just defensively, we didn’t
have that urgency.”
Smith hit one free throw to tie the game at 84 with 38.7 seconds left before
Conley got to the line after a drive to the hoop. He made the first and missed
Oden, who was limited to nine points in 18 minutes, then saved the Buckeyes
less than a week after Ron Lewis knocked down a three-pointer to send a
second-round game into overtime before Ohio State topped Xavier.
Smith drove to the right of the lane, and with Conley on his hip, threw up the
ball, but Oden swatted it away with his outstretched left hand.
Ohio State’s winning streak started with a 68-66 win over the Volunteers on
The Buckeyes had trouble, shooting, rebounding and were completely outplayed in
the opening 20 minutes, and were behind, 49-32 at the half, but it could have
Nine straight points moved the Volunteers to a 26-14 lead, with Ramar Smith
capping the spurt with a layup midway through the half.
Oden picked up his third foul with 5:15 remaining in the half and was forced
to sit. Lofton’s three made it 37-20, and after Conley missed a jumper, Duke
Crews’ tip-in moved the margin to 39-20.
Tennessee’s lead expanded to 49-29 on a layup from Lofton inside of a minute
before David Lighty converted a three-point play inside of a second left to
end the half.
The Buckeyes came out on fire against a sluggish Tennessee squad, shaving the
deficit to 51-44 following a layup from Lewis with 16 1/2 minutes left.
“We saw their body language coming out for the second half and we knew we had
to attack,” Lewis said. “Out thought was get to the basket, get free throws so
we could stop the clock and knock down shots. That’s what we did.”
Lofton countered with a three, but the Buckeyes looked sharper and continually
chipped away despite Oden picking up his fourth foul with just under 11
Matt Terwilliger’s two free throws moved the Buckeyes to a 66-64 advantage and
it was a see-saw battle from there.
“Two point baskets were hard to come by,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.
“We had only four two-point baskets in the second half.”
Lofton’s bucket had the Vols ahead 79-76, but Lighty responded with a three,
and another long distance shot by Lewis moved the Buckeyes ahead, 82-79.
Lofton came right back with another three to even the contest with under two
Olden then hit two foul shots before Wayne Chism hit one at the line to get
the Vols within 84-83, setting up the dramatic finish.
The Vols, who have never advanced past the regional semifinals, are 11-16 all-
time in NCAA Tournament play…JaJuan Smith had 14 points and Ryan Childress
12 for Tennessee, while Ivan Harris scored 11 for the Buckeyes…Ohio State
was 23-of-35 at the foul line, compared to 8-of-17 for Tennessee.