Greg Oden made an instant impact in his first conference tournament game. No. 1 Ohio State hopes the Big Ten freshman of the year can have another dominating performance in Saturday’s semifinals against Purdue and lead the team to its second straight conference title game.
Oden had 15 of his 22 points in the second half of the top-seeded Buckeyes’ 72-62 win over eighth-seeded Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals on Friday.
“This is my first go-around in these types of tournaments, 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,” said Oden, who was named to the All-Big Ten first team. “You’ve got to play hard every game.”
Friday’s win was Ohio State’s 15th straight, and 28th overall on the season, breaking the previous school mark of single-season victories set in 1960-61 and equaled in 1990-91.
The Buckeyes (28-3) , who won the Big Ten regular-season title for the second straight season, are seeking a conference tournament title to go with it after falling to Iowa in last year’s championship game. A tournament title would also help their case for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
“Let’s keep the focus on us getting better every day because it is there, and quite honestly, I’ve never coached a team like this,” coach Thad Matta said. “These guys have done a very good job of handling that.”
Ron Lewis had 16 points and Mike Conley Jr. had 13 on Friday, but it was Oden who carried Ohio State to the win.
The 7-foot center was 8-for-12 from the field and 6-for-10 from the free-throw line to go with eight rebounds and four blocks. He also scored 11 of his points in the final 8:27 after the Wolverines pulled within four.
“I was just trying to do something for us to win. I was just trying to go at the other team and fire my team up,” Oden said. “It was just to be more aggressive, take what the defense was giving us. They weren’t doubling, so I had to go to work.”
Oden had nine points and six rebounds in the Buckeyes’ 78-60 win at Purdue on Jan. 31, and 14 points and nine boards in their 63-56 victory on Feb. 10.
While Oden struggled offensively at West Lafayette, his defensive presence disrupted Boilermakers top scorer Carly Landry. The 6-7 Landry averages 18.7 points while shooting 60.0 percent, but was just 6-of-17 from the field and finished with 16 points in that game against the Ohio State.
The Buckeyes held the Boilermakers to just 37.9 percent shooting in that game, and limited the Wolverines to only 32.7 percent from the floor on Friday.
While Ohio State is a lock for the NCAA tournament, fifth-seeded Purdue strengthened its case for an NCAA berth by beating fourth-seeded Iowa 74-55 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament on Friday.
The Boilermakers—who have not been to the NCAA tournament since 2003— have won eight of their last 11 games, with two of those losses coming to the Buckeyes.
Landry, who was also named to the All-Big Ten first team, scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Hawkeyes, and is averaging 20.0 points and 11.0 boards in his last three games.
Purdue, which went 9-19 in Matt Painter’s first season as coach in 2005-06, is playing in the tournament semifinals for the first time since 1998. The Boilermakers went on to the title game that season before losing to Michigan 76-67.