for this game

Ohio St. survives Oden's foul woes, clips Georegtown

Apr 1, 2007 - 3:20 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- In the battle of big men, the deciding factor between Ohio State and Georgetown was which 7-footer would be saddled with his fourth foul first.

With Roy Hibbert forced to the bench with under nine minutes remaining, freshman Greg Oden and top-seeded Ohio State went on a decisive run to post a 67-60 victory over No. 2 Georgetown in the national semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Despite being with saddled with three fouls himself, Oden was inserted into the game when Hibbert picked up his fourth foul attempting to box out Othello Hunter on a long rebound with 8:50 left and the score tied at 44-44.

"There was a foul, I got for holding somebody," Hibbert said. "I just needed to make smarter decisions when I was out there."

After failing to score in the first half, Oden had a inside layup and a free throw during a 10-2 spurt, with Jamar Butler's 3-pointer capping it for a 54-46 advantage with 5:47 remaining.

With their 22nd consecutive win, the Buckeyes (35-3) advanced to face defending champion Florida in the national title game on Monday. It will Ohio State's first shot at a championship since losing to Cincinnati in consecutive years from 1961-62.

"We beat one of the best basketball teams we've played this year," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. "One of the biggest keys when you play a team like Georgetown is preparation. I couldn't be prouder of our guys for executing the game plan."

Despite playing in just three minutes in the first half due to two fouls, Oden finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. His jumper with 2:16 remaining gave the Buckeyes a 58-52 lead.

"It was real tough in the first half, just sitting there, because I wanted to contribute," Oden said.

Keeping the Buckeyes afloat in Oden's early absence was freshman Mike Conley Jr., who scored 11 of his 15 points before the break. He also had six assists against one turnover.

"When he (Oden) came out of the game, all of us had that mindset that we had to step up our level of play," Conley said. "We had to pick it up the best we could. I felt I did that in the first half."

Being sloppy with the ball is what doomed Georgetown (30-7), which finished with 14 turnovers, leading to 22 points for Ohio State.

"At times we got a little careless with the ball," said Hoyas guard Jonathan Wallace, whose team averaged just 10 turnovers in the previous four games of the tournament. "It's kind of uncharacteristic of us. We just had to fight through it, but kind of came up on the short end."

It were those turnovers, especially the nine in the first half that allowed Ohio State to weather the foul issues for Oden, who picked up his second foul just 2:40 into the contest on a charge near the right baseline.

Despite having their talented 7-footer still on the court, the Hoyas committed four turnovers on their next seven possessions, allowing the Buckeyes to pull ahead 14-7 with 11:49 left after a driving layup by Conley.

One of the reasons for the giveaways was Ohio State's decision to keep switching defense to mask the absence of Oden.

"You know, we felt that the zone was pretty effective in the first half," Matta said. "Quite honestly, I knew we were going to go to the man (defense). We had worked so hard this week in breaking down their actions, cuts. I thought our guys really did a nice job of taking away the back doors, being active when they caught the ball in the post."

"It came down to the defense that they played," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "I don't think it was so much offensive execution. We just, we turned over the ball at key times which is not indicative of how this team has played."

In all, Ohio State held a 13-1 advantage in points off turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, leading to a 27-23 edge at the break.

Although it was able to grab a 34-33 lead 3:25 into the second half on a 3-pointer by Jesse Sapp, Georgetown had its momentum derailed when Hibbert picked up his third foul challenging a shot just moments after he had blocked Oden and the score tied at 34-34 with 15:56 left.

Oden, who finished 6-of-11 from the field, had a thunderous slam dunk less than 30 seconds later and hit a hook from near the right baseline for a 40-36 advantage with 12:53 to play.

That little burst forced Thompson to bring back Hibbert 21 seconds later, and the game would change for good in the Buckeyes' favor when the 7-2 junior got his fourth foul less than four minutes later.

Despite finishing with those four fouls, Hibbert had 19 points and six rebounds.

Wallace also had 19 points and Jeff Green added nine and 12 boards for the Hoyas, who failed to advance to the title game for the first time in five trips to the Final Four.