Goodman: Oden answers call
Greg Oden helps Bucks to Finals
Greg Oden helps Bucks to Finals
Posted Mar 31, 2007

ATLANTA - For a while, it looked as though Greg Oden's (AP Photo) college career might conclude on the bench.

The Ohio State 7-foot freshman sat and waited. He went into the locker room at halftime with no points, not a single rebound and two early fouls.

The first came after just 55 ticks on the clock. Offensive foul. Oden.

The second was 2:41 into the game on a baseline charge. Another offensive foul.

Go find a pair of pom poms and get comfy on the bench, Greg. It's gonna be a while.

"It was real tough just sitting there, because I wanted to contribute," Greg Oden said after the Buckeyes' 67-60 victory over Georgetown in the national semifinals. "But my teammates stepped up."

His opponent, 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert, also picked up a pair of fouls — but at least he was fairly productive and went into the break with eight points and three boards in an abbreviated 10 minutes.

Oden was on the bench for 17:19 of the first half, but the Buckeyes showed they can play without their prized big man — they still led by four at the half.

"We know how to play without him," Ohio State freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr. said. "We've done it before."

That's true. Conley and his mates did it for the first seven games of the season while Oden recovered from wrist surgery — and also did it several times since his return because of his inability to stay out of foul trouble.

But this one would have been brutal. The critics were ready to pounce on the future No. 1 overall pick. Certainly, they could smell blood.

Then Oden came out and delivered. He's never going to live up to the expectations, but he silenced the critics — at least for now.

Oden scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds — all after the break.

Maybe he wasn't Bill Walton or Lew Alcindor out there, but he stepped up when it counted.

Nothing he has done all season was bigger than a 12-foot jumper he made with 2:10 remaining in the game. The last time Oden made — or even took — a face-up jumper from that distance was back against Carmel High (Ind.) a year ago.

"I have no idea (why I took it)," Oden said. "I shot it and it bounced up and back in. I figured that Big Roy hit one, so why couldn't I?"

"He hasn't taken any this year," said Conley, who played with Oden at Lawrence North High. "None."


When Greg Oden went down, the Buckeyes' supporting cast stepped up. When he came back in, it was all over for Georgetown. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Thad Matta went right to Oden in the second half. He scored a couple minutes into the half, then had a dunk off an offensive rebound with 15:22 left to break a 34-34 tie. He then went to work over Patrick Ewing Jr. and Hibbert on successive possessions midway through the half to give the Buckeyes a 42-36 advantage.

Then, with 6:37 remaining, he almost silenced the Georgia Dome crowd with one of the most spectacular dunks in Final Four history. He took off from the foul line and attempted a dunk with his right hand, but the Hoyas' Jeff Green got in the way and the ball bounced off the back of the rim.

"I wanted to tear the rim down," Oden said.

He nearly did.

Oden's elbow jumper was followed by a huge three-point play from the "other" freshman, David Lighty, with 1:41 left that built what was a four-point game moments earlier into an insurmountable 61-52 advantage.

This is the deepest team that made the trek to Atlanta.

Oden had plenty of help from his teammates. Conley had 11 points in the first half, and the most poised and unflappable freshman in the last decade finished with 15 points, six assists, five boards and a single turnover.

"Mike knows everything," said Oden, his best friend. "I can't even tell you what's in his head because there's so much in there."

The Buckeyes advanced to the national championship game despite getting a 1-for-8 performance from Ron Lewis and not a single meaningful point out of Daequan Cook.

They did it with a toughness that some have questioned throughout the season and a defensive effort that held Green, Georgetown's standout forward, to just five field-goal attempts and six points.

Now Matta & Co. will try and bring a national title to Columbus for the first time since 1960 — when Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek won it all.

"We've got 40 minutes to go," Oden said.

The key is how many of those 40 that Oden actually plays.

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