COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—It wasn’t so much the career-high 29 points as the final score that put a smile on Greg Oden’s face.
Oden dominated inside while hitting 12 of 13 shots from the field to lead No. 7 Ohio State to an 82-63 victory over Iowa on Saturday night.
“He’s a super talent,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said of the 7-foot freshman. “What makes him very, very special is he can get 29 (points) and 10 (rebounds) and win, or he can get 6 and 10 and win—and he’s going to feel the same. It’s never been about points. It’s never been about any kind of selfish ambition with Greg. It’s always been about winning.”
Besides being almost perfect from the field, Oden, who turns 19 on Monday, hit all five of his free throws while shooting left-handed. He still wears an elastic brace on his shooting hand—which he occasionally uses while shooting— but he continues to use his off hand at the line.
“It was all my teammates,” the freshman said. “They got me the ball in the right spots and I had nothing else to do but to dunk it.”
Oden also had 10 rebounds, one assist and two blocked shots.
“I thought he was tremendous,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “He finished well. He got real active the last 10 minutes defensively and as always he rebounded well. When he’s finishing down there it makes us a lot better basketball team.”
Ron Lewis had 12 points and Daequan Cook added 11—including five during a pivotal 13-0 second-half run—for Ohio State (16-3, 4-1 Big Ten), which has won six of its last seven.
Mike Conley Jr. totaled 10 assists—many on passes that led to Oden dunks— and also made several critical plays in the game. He charged into 7-foot Iowa center Seth Gorney late in the opening half, causing Gorney to get two stitches in his face. He did not play again, opening the door for Oden to take the game over in the second half.
Conley also followed up his own bad pass with a steal near midcourt that helped touch off the decisive Ohio State run.
“The guy who gets overshadowed in this whole thing is Conley,” Alford said. “He did in high school because Greg is such a super talent. But that’s a pretty special point guard. He takes good shots, he knows his role and he had a 10-to-3 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s in line to break a lot of records here at a university that’s produced a lot of great point guards.”
Tyler Smith scored 21 points and the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Adam Haluska, added 15 for the Hawkeyes (10-9, 2-3), who have dropped three of four after a season-best four-game winning streak.
With the Buckeyes switching off defenders, Haluska did not score in the final 16:05.
Iowa has dominated the series in recent years, winning three of its last four trips to Columbus. The Buckeyes had lost the last four times they’ve played Iowa while ranked.
“You could tell through practice all week that (the upperclassmen) were going harder,” Conley said. “Before the game they mentioned how bad they wanted to beat them.”
Down as many as 15 points early in the second half, the Hawkeyes scored on 10 consecutive possessions to get as close as 49-45 on Cyrus Tate’s 3-pointer at the 12:42 mark.
“We made a good run and cut a double-digit deficit to four,” Alford said. “Thad called a timeout and I’m sure he got into them pretty good. Upon coming out on the floor, the only guy who was really vocal was Oden. He’s a great leader. He looks like a tremendous teammate and he’s hands down the best talent on the floor. You don’t see that often out of the center position.”
With the lead still at four, the Buckeyes went on a 13-0 run to push the advantage to 67-50 with 8:10 left. Cook got it started with a 3 before Oden had a conventional three-point play. While Iowa missed on three shots from the field and the front end of a bonus situation, Cook spun in a left-handed reverse layup and Ron Lewis made a 3 from the left corner.
The Buckeyes shot 68 percent from the field in the second half and finished at 59 percent. They also outscored the Hawkeyes 14-2 at the line.
“Oden is a handful and we didn’t handle him very well,” Alford said. “They beat us by 19 and got us by 20 in points in the paint. It was pretty clear and pretty easy to see where they won the game.”