Thanks to a weekend trip to New Jersey, I’m a little late in blogging on this one but, nonetheless, Go Buckeyes !:
ATLANTA, March 31 — The showdown of 7-footers dissolved into a game of musical chairs. Ohio State’s Greg Oden would rise, Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert would sit, and the fortunes of their teams would swing like a pendulum, until one big man and his team were left standing, arms raised, on the hardwood floor.
More foul-prone than ferocious and waiting in vain for its star player, Jeff Green, to emerge, Georgetown could not deny the Buckeyes and Oden on Saturday night, losing 67-60. Neither grace nor grit — the qualities that ignited the Hoyas’ pulsating run through March — were enough before 53,510 at the Georgia Dome, where the rebirth of a storied men’s basketball program was halted in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
The loss stopped the Hoyas’ dream of playing in their first championship game since John Thompson Jr. lorded over a program led by senior center Patrick Ewing in 1985. Twenty-two years later, his son, John Thompson III, coached the team and Patrick Ewing Jr. played extensively. Yet the paternal ties that became part of Georgetown’s growing lore nationally could not contain Oden, a freshman who scored all 13 of his points in the second half, or kick-start the Hoyas’ offense.
Green took a paltry five shots, finishing with nine points and 12 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. The Big East Conference player of the year mirrored his team; neither developed any sustained offensive rhythm.
“We put the ball in his hands and he decided not to shoot,” Thompson III said. “As I said, I’ll live and die with Jeff Green’s ability to make decisions.”
The main subplot involved the matchup of two of college basketball’s premier big men — Oden and the Hoyas’ 7-foot-2 Hibbert, but it fizzled, instead becoming a night of fouls and frustration. Oden went to the bench less than three minutes into the game and sat there for the rest of the first half. The story of the Hoyas’ loss became their inability to capitalize on Oden’s absence. They allowed Mike Conley, Ohio State’s lithe and quick point guard who finished with 15 points and six assists, to masterfully direct the Buckeyes (35-3) to a 27-23 halftime lead.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the 2007 NCAA Championship will pit Ohio State against Florida yet again:
ATLANTA, March 31 — As if the clock were turned back one year, UCLA walked onto college basketball’s largest stage again Saturday and confronted the same Florida starting lineup that thoroughly embarrassed the Bruins in last season’s national championship game.
This year’s NCAA tournament semifinal turned into not merely a rematch, but very much a replay. After overcoming early offensive struggles, the Gators were at their scintillating best in the second half Saturday, cruising to a convincing 76-66 victory at the Georgia Dome to advance to Monday’s national title game against Ohio State.
One word: Payback.