No. 1 Ohio State 72, Michigan 62
CHICAGO (AP)—Greg Oden took a half to get acclimated. Once he settled in, he became the force on offense that No. 1 Ohio State needed for its 15th straight victory.
“This is my first go-around in these type of tournaments, so I just feed off the guys that have been there before,” the Buckeyes’ prize freshman said Friday when his second-half play powered a 72-62 win over Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals.
Oden had 15 of his 22 points in the second half as Ohio State fought off the Wolverines, who had a whopping 47-25 rebounding edge but still couldn’t stop OSU’s 7-footer.
“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, who hasn’t decided if his freshman season will be his only one with the Buckeyes before heading to the NBA, scored 11 of his points in the final 8:27 after Michigan pulled within four.
Oden was 8-for-12 from the field and 6-for-10 from the free-throw line to go with eight rebounds and four blocks.
“Every time we were trying to get position to put pressure on them, they certainly had an answer,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “With Oden on the interior, they can always throw it in there. We didn’t do a good enough job pushing him farther out.”
Ohio State (28-3) hasn’t lost in two months—a defeat Jan. 9 at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes, eyeing the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, will play Purdue in the Big Ten semifinals. Purdue beat Iowa 74-55 Friday afternoon.
Ohio State (28-3) hasn’t lost in two months—a defeat Jan. 9 at Wisconsin. The Buckeyes, eyeing the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, will play Purdue or Iowa in the Big Ten semifinals.
It was Ohio State’s third win in as many tries this season against Michigan (21-12), which is hoping to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. Just six days earlier in Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes rallied from a late six-point deficit by holding the Wolverines scoreless for the final 4 minutes.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say we will not make it,” Amaker said. “We haven’t been told we haven’t been included in the tournament yet. I don’t think we should assume that right now.”
Ron Lewis added 16 points, and Mike Conley Jr. had 13 for the Buckeyes.
Lester Abram scored 13 and Jerret Smith 12 for the Wolverines. Leading scorer Dion Harris managed just nine on 1-for-13 shooting.
The Wolverines made it a four-point game when Harris hit two free throws after a technical foul on Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who was angry over a no-foul call.
“I never have an intention of getting a technical,” Matta said. “I thought Greg got hit. It was a rough game. I just said call the foul. It was deserved. … I probably get a little too carried away with it, but it’s hard. It’s so physical and when you’re going to Greg so much, there’s going to be contact. He’s so hard to guard.”
When Michigan’s 6-11 Courtney Sims picked up his fourth foul and had to go the bench, the Buckeyes went right to Oden for a basket. But Abram connected on a 3-pointer with 7:47 remaining and the Wolverines were within 52-49.
Then Oden went to work again.
He used his 2-inch height and 40-pound weight advantage over Ekpe Udoh to back his way in for another basket and a three-point play to make it 55-49. After a Michigan turnover, Oden made a nice reverse layup and the lead was back to eight just that quickly.
Fellow freshman Conley hit a 3-pointer from the corner and then made a nice pass to Othello Hunter for a slam and the Buckeyes were in charge with an 11-point cushion with just under 5 minutes left.
“He’s a load down there,” Michigan’s Brent Petway said of Oden. “He has the size and he knows how to use it. It’s tough to match up with him.”
Ohio State played some tough defense, especially in the second half when Michigan made only 8-of-31 field goal attempts. The Wolverines finished at 33 percent for the game.
Petway had 12 of Michigan’s rebounds, where the Wolverines held a 22-6 advantage on the offensive boards. But that wasn’t enough for victory against Oden and the Buckeyes.
“It was a win, that’s all that really matters,” Oden said. “Doesn’t matter about me personally.”