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Oden, Ohio State eventually pull away for Big Ten title

Mar 12, 2007 - 5:23 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Freshman Greg Oden can now add champion to the list of superlatives that get attached to his name.

Oden shook off a bizarre first half to finish with 12 points and 10 rebounds as top-ranked Ohio State captured the Big Ten Conference tournament title with a 66-49 victory over No. 4 Wisconsin.

Reeling off their 17th consecutive win, the Buckeyes (30-3) collected their first league tourney title since 2002 and secured a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"To be sitting at 30-3 and have won 17 straight games and two of our losses are to No. 1 (teams) that were ahead of us, one was without Greg Oden, the other he had been playing for three weeks, the other one was at Wisconsin, I'm pretty excited with where we are today," Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

The reason for most of the success for Ohio State this season, the 7-0 center leads the team with 15.5 points and 9.7 rebounds. In a semifinal win over Purdue on Saturday, Oden had 17 points and a conference tournament-record 19 boards.

Amazingly, Oden did not score or attempt a shot as the Buckeyes grabbed a 26-20 lead at the half on Sunday. He did have some foul issues, picking up a pair in the opening 20 minutes.

"We were just trying to keep it close without him in the game," Ohio State freshman guard Mike Conley Jr. said. "A lot of things are a lot harder because he takes up so much space down low and we rely on him for a lot of things. I think a lot of us stepped up in that first half."

Despite the surprising start, Oden imparted his will after intermission en route to his 11th double-double of the season.

The freshman connected on his first shot of the game - a layup - in the opening two minutes of the second half and added a follow dunk off a missed runner by Conley as Ohio State began the final 20 minutes with an 8-3 run for a 34-23 advantage with 17:51 remaining.

Despite being without second-leading scorer Brian Butch for a fourth straight game, the Badgers (29-5) managed a run, closing within 38-34 on a 3-pointer by Kammron Taylor with 13:35 left.

However, the Buckeyes proved too tough, with freshman Daequan Cook hitting a 3-pointer more than a minute later and Oden added another follow dunk for a 53-43 lead with 5:53 to play.

Oden finished 5-of-9 from the field and Conley scored 18 points and handed out eight assists for Ohio State, which beat Wisconsin for the second time in three meetings this season.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan believed that those two freshmen were the deciding factor in the game.

"I think what happened was the quickness of Conley with the ball and Oden being such a presence inside, there's two pretty big factors of why things turned out the way they did," he said.

Taylor had 15 points but leading scorer Alando Tucker never stepped up, finishing 4-of-13 from the field with 10 points for the Badgers.

"It was one of those things," said Tucker, who finished with his lowest scoring output since December 2. "Early we didn't get a rhythm. We didn't establish a rhythm. That's usually one of the things we're good at, establishing that rhythm.

"They were tough defensively. They were throwing different matchups, different zones, identifying with guys pretty well. It was tough. Like Coach said, they have Oden in the back, so the guards are able to push up a little more on our guards."

Overall, Wisconsin shot just 37 percent (21-of-57) from the field, including 4-of-23 on 3-pointers, and attempted just six free throws.

"If you're playing behind like that, it's very difficult to get to the free-throw line, and that's a game that we usually like to play," Ryan said. "But when you're playing from behind, you don't usually get that many opportunities."

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    WISCONSIN (4) 20 29 49
    OHIO ST (1) 26 40 66 FINAL

    Mar 11 5:16 PM


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