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Freshman Oden makes debut in Ohio St. rout of Valpo

Dec 2, 2006 - 11:28 PM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- He may not be at full health, but the Greg Oden era has begun at Ohio State.

One of the most coveted big men to come out of high school in reach years, Oden scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his collegiate debut as the top-ranked Buckeyes recorded a 78-58 victory over Valparaiso.

Making his debut a month earlier than expected, the 7-1 freshman did not start, but entered the contest to a standing ovation after just over 3 1/2 minutes expired. It was the first game Oden had appeared in since undergoing surgery to repair ligament damage in his right hand in June.

"I had jitters two days ago when there was a possibility I could play," Oden said. "It felt really good. It was a slow game and I was just out there having fun with my teammates."

"Honestly I was just happy for Greg," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "I know how hard it's been on him. I was out recruiting last night and got the call. I knew there was a chance Greg would be ready to go."

Wearing a brace on his right hand, Oden was fouled underneath the basket attempting his first shot with the Crusaders leading, 12-9, with 12:56 remaining. Showing his injury is not completely healed, the righthanded Oden shot both free throws lefthanded, making the first and missing the second.

"I've been practicing a lefthanded jump shot," Oden said. "I'm just doing what I can and if my wrist hurts, I won't do it again."

In playing 23 minutes, the two-time national high school player of the year shot 3-of-4 from the field, converted 8-of-15 from the stripe and blocked five shots for a strong debut.

Trailing for most of the first eight minutes of the game, Ohio State (7-1) put together a 17-4 run to open the contest up. Freshman Daequan Cook had eight points during the burst, including two free throws that capped it for a 27-18 advantage with 6:01 left in the first half.

"I thought we played pretty well there in the beginning," Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said. "Then after Greg (Oden) came in the momentum changed and they really got after us on the full-court press."

That advantage was extended to 47-22 on a free throw by Cook with 14:49 remaining in the second half.

Although the Buckeyes cruised thereafter, Oden gave the 17,311 faithful at Value City Arena another highlight when he rejected consecutive layups by Moussa Mbaye and Urule Igbavboa with just under seven minutes remaining and Ohio State holding a 65-44 lead.

"I've been working on getting into condition," Oden said. "All I can do is play defense and block shots."

Ohio State finished with a season-high nine blocks.

Cook finished with 22 points and Ron Lewis 10 for the Buckeyes, who shot 51 percent (23-of-45), including 10-of-22 on 3-pointers.

Samuel Haanpaa scored 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting for Valparaiso (3-4), which went 4-of-16 from the arc.

Brandon McPherson had 11 points and Igbavboa chipped in 10 for the Crusaders, who actually finished with an advantage in points in the paint (24-20) and rebounds (36-28) despite the double-double of Oden.

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