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Published: Friday, 3/16/2007

OSU's Butler packs for the road

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Jamar Butler packed for the short trip from Columbus to Ohio State's first round NCAA games here in neighboring Kentucky, he took all of the essentials.

But the item Butler was most concerned about was something invisible, intangible, and sometimes quite fickle.

The junior guard from Lima wanted his shooting touch to accompany him, especially after it seemed to stay at home during the recent Big Ten tournament in Chicago.

Butler had it with him last night, hitting 5-of-6 three-point tries on his way to 17 points in Ohio State's 78-57 win over Central Connecticut.

"That was really important for me," Butler said.

"In the Big Ten tournament, my shot was a little off, so I went back and worked on it. We got a lot of shots up in practice, and I think it paid off."

Butler hit two straight triples to open the game as Ohio State (31-3) jumped out to a big lead, and sank two more in the initial sequence of the second half as the lead pushed to 24 points. Ohio State coach Thad Matta said long distance stuff was just a bonus with Butler.

"It's a tremendous boost to have that, because he's such a great defender too," Matta said. "To see the shots going down is good, but I like Jamar even when he's not hitting them. We told him that if he's open, we want him to drive his legs and knock 'em down."

Butler said the Central Connecticut zone defense gave him plenty of opportunities from long range.

"I got wide-eyed. When they sat back in that zone, the other guards just got me open and I was able to hit my shot," Butler said. I felt really good tonight when I had the opportunity."

ODEN AWARENESS: Central Connecticut forward Obie Nwadike is one of the leading rebounders in the nation at almost 11 per game. He got five last night, and found himself amazed at some of the things he saw Ohio State seven-footer Greg Oden doing. Oden scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

"He's a lot bigger, he's a lot more athletic, and he's a lot more agile than I thought he'd be. He's amazing in person," Nwadike said. "He changed a lot of shots, and he makes a big impact in there, even when he doesn't have the ball. You have to find him. He covers up a lot of their mistakes with the things he does."

BIG BUTTERFLIES: Ohio State freshman Greg Oden said he had a few jitters playing in his first NCAA tournament game last night, and playing it in historic Rupp Arena. Oden led the Buckeyes with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

"I was nervous, and kind of had the butterflies," Oden said. "You just need to be able to control your emotions and go out there and play, and tell yourself that it's just another game. It's a relief to get the first one under my belt, and now just go out there and play basketball."

FEW FOULS: Ohio State finished last night's game against Central Connecticut with five team fouls. No Buckeye had more than one.

"That is something we stress - not fouling," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "I always tell our guys that fouling is a sign of weakness. You're not playing hard enough if you're fouling. I don't know what we finished - either second or third in the country in fewest fouls per game. That's something we take great pride in."

QUICK REVIEW: Central Connecticut, a No. 16-seed in the NCAA tournament, left last night's game very impressed with the opposition, top-ranked and No. 1-seed Ohio State, and the Buckeyes' freshman center Greg Oden.

"That's the best team we've ever played," Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman said.

"They're a really talented team," Central Connecticut guard Tristan Blackwood said. "They are physical, strong, and big. We played zone and we played man to try and stop Oden, but he's just too big down there. He has a presence down there, so it made our game kind of complicated."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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