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Published: Sunday, 4/1/2007

OSU's small lineup can play big

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr., left, and David Lighty scramble for a loose ball against Georgetown's Roy Hibbert. Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr., left, and David Lighty scramble for a loose ball against Georgetown's Roy Hibbert.
ERIC GAY / AP Enlarge

ATLANTA - Ohio State center Greg Oden spent the last 17 minutes and 19 seconds of the first half on the bench after picking up two early fouls last night in the NCAA Final Four semifinal game against Georgetown.

But the Buckeyes, as they have many times this season, proved they can beat a team just as

easily with small ball.

With Mike Conley Jr. leading the way with 11 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting, OSU managed a four-point halftime lead and went on to beat the Hoyas 67-60 for a 22nd straight victory and a berth in tomorrow night's national championship game.

The Buckeyes finished the game with a 22-10 edge in points after turnovers and a 14-4 advantage in fast-break points.

"We saw in [Georgetown's regional final] game that North Carolina was able to get a lot of transition baskets in the first half and that it really hurt Georgetown, so we had to do the same," Conley said. "They like to play a half-court style and if we let that happen it would be playing into their hands. They're so big and block a lot of shots and, especially with Greg out of the game, we didn't want to deal with that.

"So once we got our style established it helped a lot. With Greg out we were able to step up and dictate the speed of the game. I feel I did that in the first half."

Conley, a freshman, finished with team highs of 15 points and six assists against just a single turnover. He added five rebounds.

SHUT DOWN: Jeff Green, the Big East's player of the year for Georgetown, played very passively, attempted just five shots and finished with nine points.

"He's a guy who could have taken over the game at any point, so it was a credit to our defense and to how we had him game-planned," Conley said.

Georgetown coach John Thompson III felt his team did a poor job of getting Green involved.

"[His play] was clearly a factor," Thompson said. "They did a good job of taking it away from him. We had to do a better job of getting him the ball."

LIGHTS OUT: It may or may not have been the biggest play of the game, but David Lighty's drive for a three-point play with 1:41 was surely the knockout punch, giving the Buckeyes a 61-52 lead. After that, OSU made all six of its free throw attempts to ice the decision.

Lighty scored five points and had two steals for OSU as the Buckeye bench outscored the Hoyas' bench, 11-0.

FAMOUS SONS: Ohio State fans are familiar with Conley being the son of a famous athlete. But the Buckeyes and UCLA play second fiddle to Georgetown and Florida in the "famous father" sweepstakes at this Final Four.

The Hoyas start with coach John Thompson III, the son of the ex-Georgetown coach who led the program to greatness with 596 wins over 27 seasons. Patrick Ewing Jr., is, of course, the son of the NBA great, and Jeremiah Rivers is the son of Glen (Doc) Rivers, a former NBA player and the current coach of the Boston Celtics.

"I think we probably look at it differently than [the media] does," Thompson, the current Georgetown coach, said. "John Thompson is my dad. Patrick Ewing is little Pat's dad. Glen is Jeremiah's dad. And on down the line. I tell them that we're all sons of the team."

The Florida contingent is just as impressive. Star center Joakim Noah is the son of former tennis star and 1983 French Open champion Yannick Noah; Al Horford's father, Tito, was a 7-foot-1 center for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, and guard Taurean Green's dad, Sidney, played for five NBA teams, including the Detroit Pistons.

Add in Conley, the son of an Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump, and UCLA's Darren Collison, both of whose parents were track and field stars who competed in the Pan-American Games, this could be a Final Four "bloodlines" record of sorts.

"It is a unique situation," Florida's 6-foot-11 Noah said. "I feel like my father taught me a lot. He spoke to me a lot about expectations. He helped me with work ethic and from the sacrifices he made to be a top athlete. I feel like he's been there every step of the way."

CROW'S NEST: The worst seat in the house for the Final Four at the Georgia Dome is in the top row on the opposite end of the facility from where the court is located. It reportedly is 380 feet from the floor. And the ticket for that seat, which was good for all three games, carried a face value of $164.



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