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Oden leads Ohio State into Big Ten semis

Mar 9, 2007 - 10:04 PM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Greg Oden's first postseason game was a rousing success.

Oden dominated the interior as top-ranked Ohio State pulled away for a 72-62 victory over Michigan in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Conference tournament.

One of the nation's top freshmen who has the ability to change the game with his massive 7-foot frame, Oden did that exactly against the smaller Wolverines, collecting 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.

Oden converted a three-point play with 7:24 remaining, then scored inside on the next possession to trigger a 16-7 surge that gave the top-seeded Buckeyes control for good. His jump hook with 3:25 remaining capped the burst and provided a 68-56 cushion.

"This is my first go-around in these types of tournaments," Oden said. "So I just feel for the guys who have been here before and they know when the time comes it's lose and go home. You've just got to play hard every game."

Oden made 8-of-12 shots from the field and 6-of-10 free throws as the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines for a third time this season. He entered the game with a specific mind-set.

"It was just to be more aggressive and take what the defense was giving us," Oden said. "They weren't doubling, so I had to go to work."

Ron Lewis, one of the upperclassmen on a young, talented team, added 16 points for Ohio State (28-3), which will face Purdue in Saturday's semifinals after the Boilermakers posted a 74-55 victory over Iowa on Friday.

While the Buckeyes could be headed toward a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines (21-12) may have to settle for an NIT berth. Michigan was seeded eighth in this tournament and entered with an RPI rating of 53, putting it squarely on the bubble for an at-large bid.

"I don't think that's fair to say that we will not make it," Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. "We haven't been told we're not going to be included in the tournament yet. I don't think we should assume that right now and ask those kids to have an answer for something that is not proven to be accurate yet."

Jerret Smith scored 14 points and Lester Abram 13 for Michigan, which shot just 33 percent (18-of-54) from the field.

The Wolverines hung around and were within 50-46 with 8:59 remaining when Dion Harris made two free throws after Buckeyes coach Thad Matta was whistled for a technical foul.

"I never have an intention of getting a technical foul," Matta said. "I thought Greg (Oden) had got hit. I said, 'call the foul.' It was deserved."

Oden thought the technical worked to the Buckeyes' advantage.

"They started giving us a lot more calls and getting off their backs," Oden said.

Harris, the Wolverines' leading scorer, managed just nine points on 1-of-13 shooting.

Harris was not the only Wolverine to struggle. As a team, Michigan shot just 26 percent (8-of-31) in the second half to finish at 33 percent (18-of-55) overall.

"I just thought we didn't shoot the ball well," Harris said. "Not to take anything away from them, I thought they did a good job of shutting down some driving lanes for us, things like that."

Despite Oden's presence in the paint, the Wolverines were able to hang around by holding a commanding 47-25 rebounding advantage.

But after 6-11 Courtney Sims went to the bench with his fourth foul with under eight minutes remaining, Oden was able to impose his will. His three-point play started the surge that also included him converting a nifty reverse layup.

"I think every time we were trying to get to a position to put even more pressure on them, they certainly had an answer," Amaker said. "And obviously with (Greg) Oden on the interior for them, they can always throw it in there."

Freshman Mike Conley Jr. added 13 points for Ohio State, which shot 50 percent (26-of-52) and committed just five turnovers.

    --- --- -----
    MICHIGAN 29 33 62
    OHIO ST (1) 34 38 72 FINAL

    Mar 9 2:01 PM


    Mar 9 12:47 PM