Saturday , Mar , 31 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Oden rebounds from early foul trouble to lead OSU to title game

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) – Greg Oden ended with only 13 points but had
nine rebounds and helped spark a late second-half run, as the Ohio State
Buckeyes earned a berth in the national championship game with a 67-60 win
over Georgetown in Final Four action of the NCAA Tournament.

Mike Conley Jr. had a team-leading 15 points, scoring 11 in the first half
with Oden on the bench, for Ohio State (35-3), which has won 22 straight
games and will next face either UCLA or Florida in the championship
game on Monday. The Bruins and Gators battle in the second national
semifinal in a rematch of last year’s championship tilt won by Florida.

Oden did all of his damage in the second half thanks to first-half foul
trouble. He played just over 2 1/2 minutes in the opening 20 minutes, but took
control down the stretch to help the Buckeyes advance to their first
championship game since 1962.

Roy Hibbert, Georgetown’s seven-footer, also played with foul trouble,
ending with 19 points and six rebounds. But it was the disappearing act of
Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green that was the difference for the
Hoyas (30-7). Green ended with just nine points, taking only five shots, as
Georgetown failed to follow-up the dramatics of last weekend’s regional
final win over North Carolina with more magic.

“It was clearly a factor,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said of
Green’s play. “They did a good job of taking it away from him. We had to do a
better job of getting him the ball.”

The two big men played the entire game in foul trouble and for most of the
second half Hibbert and Oden took turns on the bench, and the other’s opponent
took advantage each time.

With Oden on the bench with three fouls and Hibbert playing with the same
amount, Georgetown used an 8-2 run to tie the game at 44 following a
Jonathan Wallace three-pointer with 9:45 left.

However, the turning point of the game came 55 seconds later when Hibbert
picked up his fourth foul. Oden was at the table getting ready to check in
when Hibbert was called for the foul on a rebound attempt. Hibbert had to go
to the bench, Oden returned and Ohio State ran off seven straight points to go
ahead. Oden scored three of the seven points, hitting 1-of-2 free throws with
6:49 left to end the surge for a 51-44 lead.

After Hibbert returned, Ohio State’s Jamar Butler then extended the lead to
54-46 with a three-pointer at the 5:47 mark.

Oden later picked up his fourth foul with 2:36 left and the Buckeyes holding a
56-52 edge, but he remained in the game and hit a 15-foot jumper with 2:14
left to extend the lead to six points. David Lighty followed with a three-
point play with 1:41 left as the cushion increased to 61-52.

“We wanted to take advantage of big Roy going out,” said Oden. “We wanted to
go inside, get some shot over their defense because I’m bigger than their
guys, except for Roy. We wanted to attack on the inside.”

Georgetown, which got 19 points from Wallace, never drew within five points
the rest of the way.

“It was real tough in the first half, just sitting there, because I wanted to
contribute,” said Oden. “But my teammates, they stepped up. They did a great
job. They didn’t let them get a lot of offensive rebounds.

“In the second half, I just wanted to go out and play hard and rebound the

Hibbert seemed poised to be the big man in foul trouble early, getting his
first foul just 18 seconds in the game, but as it turned out it was Oden who
had to sit out most of the first half. The freshman picked up his second foul
just 2:41 into the contest, getting called for an offensive foul with the
Buckeyes trailing 5-3.

The loss of Oden didn’t seem to phase Ohio State too much, as Conley took
over. The freshman scored six points during an 11-2 run that followed Oden’s
second foul, helping the Buckeyes get out to a 14-7 lead 7:40 into the half.

“When (Oden) came out of the game, all of us had that mindset that we had to
step up out level of play,” said Conley. “Without him in the game you lose a
lot. We had to pick it up the best we could. I felt I did that in the first

Georgetown managed to draw within 15-14 after a Hibbert dunk with 7:06 left,
but the Hoyas’ big man picked up his second foul 18 seconds later and sat out
the rest of the stanza.

Ohio State took advantage, extending to a 25-17 lead after Ron Lewis’ jumper
with 3:32 left and went into halftime with a 27-23 edge.

The Hoyas came out of halftime and quickly tied the game at 29 following a
DaJuan Summers layup with 1:42 elapsed and then grabbed their first lead since
the opening minutes when Jessie Sapp hit a three-pointer at the 16:34 mark for
a 34-33 edge.

Game Notes

This is the fifth time these two teams have met on the hardwood. They split
the previous four meetings…OSU and Georgetown met in the second round of the
tourney last year, with the Hoyas coming away with a 70-52 win…Green had 12
rebounds…Sapp had 10 points for the Hoyas…Georgetown was making its first
Final Four appearance since 1985 when it lost to Villanova in the championship