Ohio State 67, Georgetown 60

Saturday, March 31st 2007, 7:53 pm
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Ohio State showed it can win without Greg Oden. Georgetown was just lost without Roy Hibbert.

With Hibbert and Oden both hampered by foul trouble, it was Mike Conley Jr. and the rest of the Buckeyes who carried Ohio State to its first national title game since 1962 with a 67-60 victory over Georgetown on Saturday night.

Conley finished with 15 points, six assists and five rebounds, while Oden added 13 points _ all in the second half _ and eight rebounds in 20 minutes.

Hibbert scored 19 and had six rebounds in 24 minutes for the Hoyas, and more than held his own in the much-anticipated matchup with Oden. Problem was, he spent too much time as a spectator.

So did the rest of the Hoyas.

Jeff Green, the Big East player of the year who had been scoring a team-best 15.8 points in the NCAA tournament, had just nine points, and took only five shots the entire game. He did have 12 rebounds, but it wasn't enough _ not with Hibbert out. The Georgetown bench finished with no points. Zippo.

At 7-2, Hibbert had two inches and two years on Oden. And the difference showed. Whenever Hibbert was in the game, Georgetown played with confidence, speed and rhythm. Without him, they looked clunky, slow and disorganized.

He left the game with about 16 minutes left after picking up his third foul. When he returned 3 1/2 minutes later, he reeled off a quick five points and Jonathan Wallace hit a 3 to tie the game at 44 with 9:44 left.

But Hibbert picked up his fourth foul 20 seconds later, and as he was heading back to the bench, Oden was returning. Just like that, the momentum switched again.

The Buckeyes got used to playing without Oden when he missed the first seven games of the season recovering from wrist surgery. But they're a better team with him.

After playing only three minutes the first half, he played all but three minutes of the second, and his mere presence seemed to energize the Buckeyes. He scored on a hook shot, and David Lighty and Jamar Butler added layups.

After a timeout, Oden took a hard foul from Green as he went up for a dunk. He made one of two free throws to give Ohio State a 51-44 lead with 6:37 to play, and the Buckeyes (35-3) were never in trouble again.

It was the 22nd straight victory for the Buckeyes, who will be playing for the national title Monday night for the fifth time in school history. They won the 1960 title, then lost the next two years. They also lost in the 1939 title game, the first year of the NCAA tournament.

The loss was only the second in 21 games for the Hoyas (30-7). And it spoiled John Thompson III's attempt to lead Georgetown to a title just as his father did.

Oden has been one of the biggest stories this season, a certain No. 1 pick in the NBA draft whenever he comes out. But he started slowly after the offseason wrist surgery, and has only recently started to show his dazzling skills.

He's struggled with foul trouble in the NCAA tournament, and it was no different Saturday night. The game wasn't even three minutes old when he picked up his second foul, and he spent the rest of the first half on the bench.

Despite Hibbert's size advantage, Conley and the Buckeyes found a way around him. In just six minutes, Ohio State erased the two-point deficit it had when Oden took a seat and turned it into a seven-point lead. The Buckeyes trailed only once, 34-33, the rest of the game.

Ivan Harris started the 11-2 run with a 3-pointer, but it was Conley _ Oden's high school teammate and childhood friend _ who made the biggest plays. He scored on a layup and a short jumper, then capped the spurt with a driving layup that made it 14-7 with 11:48 to play.

Conley hit a 3 and Ron Lewis banked in a jumper to give Ohio State a 25-17 lead.

Georgetown didn't just struggle defensively. The Hoyas didn't have one of their trademark backdoor layups in the first half, and they looked for jump shots rather than trying to drive to the basket.

Hibbert was the only one doing anything inside, pulling the Hoyas within 15-14 on a rebound dunk with 7:09 left in the half and scoring four of their first six field goals. But 20 seconds later, he, too, was headed for the bench with a second foul.