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Lewis' late 3-pointer lifts Ohio St. over Tennessee

Jan 14, 2007 - 12:15 AM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Ron Lewis made Tennessee pay for its lack of concentration.

Lewis sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining as fifth-ranked Ohio State took advantage of some poor free-throw shooting down the stretch by the No. 20 Volunteers to capture a 68-66 victory.

It was just the second basket of the game for Lewis, who failed to score in the first half despite entering the contest as the Buckeyes' third-leading scorer at 13.2 points. He finished with five points on 2-of-5 shooting.

"Really I just thought about winning," Lewis said about the clinching shot. "I didn't know how many we were down. We were down one. I knew we needed a bucket to win."

"Ron had the look," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "He made the read." Despite trailing, 51-41, with 13:02 remaining in the second half, Tennessee (13-4) rallied, taking a 64-63 lead on a layup by Chris Lofton with 56 seconds remaining.

"I thought our guys kept their composure," Matta said. "We got that 10-point lead but then hit a cold spot. We were fortunate get one down the stretch."

Ohio State (14-3) retook the lead on two free throws by freshman Mike Conley Jr., but Lofton answered back with another hard drive to the basket.

Holding on the defensive end, the Vols were unable to add to their 66-65 lead as freshman Ramar Smith missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 27 seconds left. However, reserve freshman Josh Tabb chased down the loose ball, deflecting it off a Buckeye player to retain possession.

"It was a battle and down the stretch it looked like we were going to be the team that was going to win but they hit a big shot and won," Tennessee forward Dane Bradshaw said.

Lofton, who scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half, compounded Tennessee's struggles at the line by missing another front end of a 1-and-1 with 23 seconds left before Lewis knocked down the decisive shot from the top of the key.

Overall, Tennessee was only able to convert just 5-of-11 (45.5 percent) of its free throws.

The Vols, who were coming off an 82-81 Southeastern Conference loss at Vanderbilt on a last-second follow shot Wednesday, had a chance for a winning shot but Smith missed a jumper and freshman Wayne Chism's tip would not fall.

"I knew I just needed to get back and tip the ball away from the basket," said Ohio State freshman sensation Greg Oden about Tennessee's final possession. "I was worried at that point but just played tough defense."

Unlike his previous game, a 72-69 loss at No. 4 Wisconsin on Tuesday, Oden was the focal point of the Buckeyes' offensive attack from the start, scoring 16 of his 24 points in the first half.

The 7-footer made his four shots, including two dunks, inside the opening six minutes to help Ohio State take a 12-9 lead. He finished 6-of-7 from the field and pulled down 15 rebounds.

"It felt good to be on a roll and get a couple points," said Oden, who had just 10 points and seven boards in the loss to the Badgers. "I looked up and had 10 points and it felt good. It put confidence in me."

"You can't stop him, you just want to do things to limit him," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "We wanted to run the floor and then in the half-court we wanted to lean on him and try and wear him out."

Despite Oden's stellar start, the Buckeyes could not shake the Vols, needing two 3-pointers in the closing 62 seconds to grab a 36-33 advantage at the half.

That advantage did grow to double digits in the second half, as the Buckeyes opened the final 20 minutes with a 13-6 run that made it 49-39 with 17:46 remaining. Oden capped the burst with a dunk.

However, the Vols fought back behind Lofton, who scored 10 points in the closing 6:02. The senior guard knotted the score at 59-59 with 3:41 left after grabbing a long rebound and racing down the court for a contested layup. Although Ivan Harris hit a 3-pointer and Conley split two free throws, Lofton added two more layups and Smith a free throw as Tennessee surged to its first lead since late in the first half.

Conley finished with 16 points and Harris nine for Ohio State, which beat a ranked opponent for the first time in four games.

Smith had 14 and nine rebounds and Bradshaw scored 11 for Tennessee.