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Oden's return sparks Ohio State surge
The big man comes back from foul trouble to rally the Buckeyes into the Final Four.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published March 25, 2007
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Ohio State's Greg Oden shrugged his massive shoulders as if to say Memphis center Joey Dorsey's disparaging remarks the day before were inconsequential.
"I just wanted to go out there and play," he said Saturday. "I wasn't going to let his comments get in my head."
But Oden sure showed the Tigers that he's not, in the words of Dorsey, ahem, "overrated as a big man."
After sitting out nearly five minutes in foul trouble, Oden returned and ignited a decisive 25-10 run with his defensive presence and offensive power - which included a pivotal intentional foul he drew - as OSU cruised to a 92-76 win in the South Region finale at the Alamodome.
This is the top-seeded and top-ranked Buckeyes' 10th Final Four trip, their first since 1999 in St. Petersburg, although NCAA violations purged that tournament run from the record books.
OSU was in trouble against Xavier last weekend and against Tennessee on Thursday. The common denominator was Oden in foul trouble, which happened again against the No. 2-seeded and No. 5-ranked Tigers.
Oden picked up his third foul early in the second half with OSU leading 47-42. With him on the bench, the Tigers attacked the basket at will and took a 56-51 lead with 12:38 left.
"I didn't feel it slipping away," coach Thad Matta said, hoping to keep his 7-foot, 280-pound freshman center on the bench for another minute or two, "but I grabbed Greg and our eyes kind of met and he kind of nodded at me and I said, 'Let's go,' and got him back in there."
Oden's teammates took their cue from him. He had a block, an intimidation and a free throw before he scored inside and drew what the officials ruled was an intentional foul from sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts with 9:43 to go.
"I didn't want him to get an easy dunk to get the momentum going," Douglas-Roberts said, adding he didn't think it was so hard as to merit an intentional.
"I didn't really see the play ... but I really hope it was an intentional foul because it was a difference maker in the game," Memphis coach John Calipari said.
Oden made a free throw to tie it at 60, and, with the ball back, junior guard Jamar Butler drew a foul on the inbounds play and hit both free throws.
The Tigers, who had won 25 straight, tried to stay close, but with Oden in the middle they increasingly settled for 3-pointers. Fine if you make 'em as they had in the first half (7-of-10), but they were 3-for-12 in the second. OSU took control, beating Memphis to just about every loose ball, and sealed it by hitting 18 straight free throws in the final 3:47.
Oden, whose impact Calipari likened to his former UMass big man, Marcus Camby, finished with 17 points and nine rebounds in just 24 minutes.
"He's a good player; he's a very good player and I was so tired guarding him," Dorsey said.