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Ohio State closes on 10-0 run to edge Michigan

Mar 4, 2007 - 1:53 AM ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Ticker) -- With the conference crown already wrapped up, Ohio State still did not want to head into the Big Ten Conference tournament on a losing note.

Jamar Butler scored the final four points of a closing 10-point run as No. 1 Ohio State rallied for a 65-61 victory over archrival Michigan.

Ron Lewis and freshman Greg Oden scored 16 points apiece for the Buckeyes, who won their 13th straight conference contest, second-best all-time behind a 14-game run in 1960-61.

"We were playing for ourselves," Oden said. "You never want to go into the tournament losing, so it was big to get this victory. It gives us confidence going into the tournaments coming up, and it shows us what we need to work on."

Oden shot 6-of-8 from the floor and converted 4-of-5 free throws using his right hand but played just 23 minutes due to foul trouble. Because of his injured wrist, Oden had been shooting his free throws lefthanded.

"My teammates help out a lot when I'm on the bench with foul trouble, and when I'm in the game by helping me not pick up any more fouls," Oden said.

With the 7-0 freshman bench-ridden, Othello Hunter stepped up and scored eight points in 17 minutes off the bench and the Buckeyes compensated for 44 percent (23-of-52) shooting by turning over the ball just eight times while forcing 13.

"They're very talented. They come with a lot of weapons; there's no question they're an outstanding team, a talented team - conference champions," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "They made plays down the stretch that allowed them to win this game. We have a six-point lead with two minutes and some change to go, and we didn't score again."

Ohio State (27-3, 15-1 Big Ten) trailed throughout but forged a 55-55 tie on Oden's inside hoop with 4:40 left. Michigan, however, looked poised to tie its school record of 18 home wins on Senior Day after a 3-pointer by Jerret Smith and a three-point play by Courtney Sims made it 61-55 with 3:54 left.

But that was the last points the Wolverines (20-11, 8-8) mustered, as the Buckeyes forced several turnovers and missed shots en route to their 14th straight win overall.

"We were down six points and (coach Thad Matta) said we've got them where we need them," freshman guard Mike Conley Jr. said. "You normally say that when you're up by points. But we believed everything he said because he has so much confidence in each and every one of us. We stepped on the court after that; we all had a little more pep and energy.

"We never lost our confidence. With the players we have, being down six points is not a big deficit."

Conley Jr. drove the lane for two, Oden added a follow shot and Lewis sank two free throws for a 61-61 tie with 2:21 left.

Butler then gave Ohio State the lead when he converted a 2-on-1 fast-break reverse layup. After Dion Harris missed the front end of a 1-on-1 with 48 ticks left, Conley missed an open 3-pointer but Ivan Harris secured the offensive rebound and passed to Butler, who was fouled with 10 seconds left. He calmly sank both free throws to ice the victory.

"This was a great win," Matta said. "We were really fortunate to come in here and get a win. Michigan took it to us early. We were really fortunate to be down (just one point) at halftime."

Dion Harris scored 19 points and Sims added 11 for Michigan.

"We still had the game with about 2 1/2 minutes left, but we just gave up offensive rebounds and turned it over. I think it was three times in a row when we gave up an offensive rebound or turned it over," Dion Harris said.

The Wolverines scored the first five points of the game and opened their biggest lead, 27-19, on a dunk by Brent Petway with 5:03 left. But Ohio State closed the half on a 10-5 spurt. Lewis knocked down two 3-pointers and a jumper during the run as the Buckeyes closed within 34-33 at the half.

Dion Harris and Smith combined for 19 points in then first 20 minutes, while their backcourt counterparts Conley and Butler had five points on 2-of-9 shooting.