Teams throughout the Big Ten are finding out that even containing Greg Oden doesn’t mean you can beat Ohio State.
The freshman phenom and his third-ranked Buckeyes look for their first eight-game winning streak in conference play in more than five years Saturday when they host Purdue.
Oden sat out 8 1/2 minutes of the second half due to foul trouble in Tuesday’s 76-63 victory over Michigan. The 7-foot center finished with 15 points - more than five below his 20.3 average - eight rebounds and six blocks, but freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr. took over with Oden on the bench as his season-high 23 points led Ohio State (21-3, 9-1).
“Mike can take over a game when he wants to,” said Oden, who was also Conley’s teammate at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, where the duo won three straight state championships. “I just sat back and watched and did my part. He can do a lot. He’s a great player.”
Conley had six assists and just one turnover in 38 minutes, and made 9 of 12 shots from the field - many of them without Oden on the court.
“When he’s out of the game I have to step up my play and do that much more to help the team,” Conley said. “Everybody realizes that we all have to work that much harder when we don’t have the big man.”
The victory was the seventh straight for the Buckeyes, all against Big Ten opponents. Ohio State has not won eight consecutive conference games since a 13-game run from Feb. 3, 2001-Jan. 24, 2002.
Conley also led the Buckeyes’ in scoring in their 78-60 win at Purdue on Jan. 31, finishing with 18 points. The Boilermakers (16-8, 5-5) limited Oden to nine points - one of just four games this season he failed to reach double figures - but all the defensive attention on the freshman center allowed Ohio State’s perimeter shooters to make 8 of 18 3-point attempts.
“These guys are getting looks off of Greg Oden getting the ball, or they’re beating us off the dribble off of Greg Oden getting the ball, and that leads to baskets.” Purdue coach Matt Painter said after that contest. “That kind of stuff doesn’t show up in a box score. And not just blocking shots, but altering shots, that doesn’t show up in a box score.
“That’s why I’ve said from day one he’s the best player in college basketball. Because you have to do so many things to really hold him down to stop his total effect on the game.”
Ohio State has defeated the Boilermakers six straight times since a 70-65 loss at Purdue on Jan. 29, 2003. The Buckeyes have also won the last six home meetings in the series since a 107-75 Boilermakers victory Feb. 7, 1998.
Purdue has won its last two games after the Jan. 31 loss to Ohio State, including an excellent defensive effort to beat Michigan State 62-38 on Wednesday. The Boilermakers outscored the Spartans 36-12 after halftime, matching a Purdue school record for fewest points allowed in a half.
Carl Landry and David Teague each scored 20 points to lead the Boilermakers. Landry, Purdue’s leading scorer with 19.3 points per game, had 26 in last Saturday’s 69-59 win at Penn State.
“Our last couple games were good quality wins,” Painter told the team’s official Web site. “We’re just fighting to survive in the conference. You are never out of it when you think you are, and when you think you are in it you get beat. We need to stress that the rest of the season and not neglect the things we did wrong against Michigan State.”