Conley Leads Ohio State Past Michigan

Wednesday, February 7th 2007, 6:19 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Seven-footer Greg Oden gets all the attention for No. 3 Ohio State. Maybe the shortest Buckeye deserves some of the focus.

Mike Conley Jr. scored a career-high 23 points and high school teammate Oden created havoc at the defensive end to lead the Buckeyes past Michigan 76-63 on Tuesday night.

``Conley's outstanding,'' Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. ``He scores when it's there, he takes care of the basketball and he keeps everybody happy. He's tremendous. I thought he was certainly the difference.''

Conley was a constant for the Buckeyes (21-3, 9-1 Big Ten) as Oden battled foul trouble and sat out 8 1/2 minutes of the second half.

The freshman point guard went 9-of-12 from the field, including two 3-pointers, and made all three of his foul shots. He also had six assists, one steal and just one turnover in 38 minutes.

Conley and Oden guided Lawrence North to Indiana state championships the last three seasons before coming to Ohio State. Their coach, Jack Keefer, always said his team could win if Oden didn't have a good game but not if Conley wasn't on top of his game.

``Mike can take over a game when he wants to,'' Oden said. ``I just sat back and watched and did my part. He can do a lot. He's a great player.''

In the only other game involving a ranked team Tuesday night, San Diego State beat No. 15 Air Force 62-41.

Oden added 15 points, eight rebounds and six blocks _ in addition to altering the trajectory of several other shots inside. The Buckeyes totaled 14 blocks, one shy of a 27-year-old school record.

``We played aggressive and didn't get a lot of fouls called, and the guards did a good job funneling (shooters) to the big guys,'' said Oden, who tied his career high for blocks. ``We just put our hands up.''

Jamar Butler added 11 points for Ohio State, which has won eight straight games overall and its last 23 home games.

Courtney Sims had 17 points and Dion Harris and Ekpe Udoh 14 apiece for the Wolverines (16-8, 4-5), who have lost four straight.

Ohio State's fans pointed at Michigan's bench and chanted ``N-I-T! N-I-T!'' in the final minute.

The Wolverines are 1-9 against top 10 teams under Amaker, and 1-21 over the past nine years. They've lost their last 11 road games against teams in the top 10.

A snowstorm that dumped up to 3 inches of snow on the Columbus area brought traffic to a standstill and delayed the arrival of the officials, two of whom didn't arrive until 15 minutes before the tip. A capacity crowd was expected, but the arena wasn't half full at the start.

``I don't think I've ever seen what the fans did tonight,'' coach Thad Matta said. ``They showed tremendous loyalty coming tonight _ and they didn't have to do that.''

Oden picked up his third foul with Ohio State up 41-32 at the 17:20 mark. Over the next 8 1/2 minutes, Conley picked up points by slashing through the lane and Othello Hunter and Matt Terwilliger filled in admirably on defense while Oden watched from the sidelines.

Conley said when Oden isn't on the floor he feels compelled to assert himself more on offense.

``When he's out of the game I have to step up my play and do that much more to help the team,'' said Conley, who is listed at 6-foot-1. ``Everybody realizes that we all have to work that much harder when we don't have the big man.''

Michigan got as close as 56-52 when Oden returned at the 8:52 mark.

While the Wolverines were managing just a free throw over the next 4 minutes, Ron Lewis hit a 3, Oden tossed in a long hook shot and then he and Othello Hunter, who had five blocks, each blocked shots at the other end. Conley then scored on a drive through traffic and the lead was back to 12.

``They're an outstanding basketball team,'' Amaker said. ``They've got a lot of weapons that can hurt you in a lot of different ways with numerous players.''

San Diego State 62, No. 15 Air Force 41

At San Diego, Mohamed Abukar scored 16 points and San Diego State beat Air Force for its first win against a ranked team in more than five years.

The defending Mountain West Conference champion Aztecs (16-7, 5-4) have won three straight. Air Force (20-4, 7-3) lost for the third time in six games.

SDSU had lost 10 consecutive games to ranked teams since beating then-No. 21 Fresno State 93-78 on Dec. 8, 2001. Since moving to Division I in 1970-71, the Aztecs are 11-73 against ranked opponents.

The Falcons got off to a horrible start and never recovered. They never led and tied the game only once, at 10-all.