Just Too Tall an Or­der

No Come­back This Time As the Hoyas Are Ousted

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - By Camille Pow­ell

AT­LANTA, March 31 — When it was over, and Ohio State had beaten Ge­orge­town, 67- 60, in the na­tional semi­fi­nals Satur­day night, the player who had led the Hoyas to this point walked slowly off the court inside the Ge­or­gia Dome, his head down and his face ex­pres­sion­less as he made his way past hun­dreds of cel­e­brat­ing Buck­eyes fans.

Ju­nior for­ward Jeff Green, with his broad smile and pen­chant for clutch shots, was one of the stars of this NCAA tour­na­ment and one of the cat­a­lysts be­hind the Hoyas’ run to their first Fi­nal Four since 1985. But he and his team­mates couldn’t muster an­other come­back against the No. 1 team in the coun­try. Green took only five shots, mak­ing four, and fin­ished with nine points and 12 re­bounds.

“ It’s a bad feel­ing to lose,” Green said.

Ge­orge­town ( 30- 7) had won 19 of its past 20 games.

“ We al­ways felt like we were a na­tional cham­pi­onship team,” said ju­nior guard Jonathan Wal­lace, who made five three- point­ers and scored 19 points. “ To lose in a Fi­nal Four game is just tough.”

Ohio State ( 35- 3) will face Florida, a 76- 66 win­ner over UCLA, in Mon­day night’s na­tional cham­pi­onship game.

Much of the buildup in the week lead­ing up to the game cen­tered on the big men for each team: Ge­orge­town’s 7- foot- 2 Roy Hib­bert — who was dom­i­nant in a win over the Buck­eyes in the sec­ond round of last year’s tour­na­ment — and Ohio State’s 7- foot fresh­man al­lAmer­i­can Greg Oden. But both play­ers bat­tled foul trou­ble through­out the game, which lim­ited their play­ing time ( 24 min­utes for Hib­bert, 20 for Oden) and af­fected their ag­gres­sive­ness.

Oden ( 13 points, nine re­bounds) was called for two fouls on the of­fen­sive end in the first three min­utes, and headed to the bench with Ge­orge­town ahead 5- 3. But the

Buck­eyes — be­hind light­ningquick fresh­man guard Mike Con­ley Jr. ( 15 points, six as­sists) — took con­trol and built a lead with Oden sit­ting on the side.

Af­ter half­time, Oden scored eight of Ohio State’s first 15 points, in­clud­ing a strong put­back dunk and a tough shot inside against Hib­bert. Mid­way through the half, Hib­bert scored five straight points, draw­ing fouls on two of the bas­kets but miss­ing the free throws. Af­ter Wal­lace stepped back and sank a three- pointer, the score was tied at 44 with 9 min­utes 45 sec­onds re­main­ing. Less than a minute later, how­ever, Hib­bert picked up his fourth foul for a push on a long de­fen­sive re­bound and was taken out.

“ I just had to make smarter de­ci­sions when I was out there,” said Hib­bert, who was called for his first foul just 18 sec­onds into the game. “ I need to be an all- around bet­ter player when it comes to know­ing when to foul and when not to.”

With Hib­bert out, the Buck­eyes went on a 7- 0 run, start­ing with Oden’s shot inside against the shorter Green, and end­ing with Oden launch­ing him­self for a one­handed dunk at­tempt that went fly­ing off the back of the rim. Green was called for a block­ing foul, and Oden made 1 of 2 free throws for a 51- 44 lead with 6: 37 on the clock. Ge­orge­town, which over­came a big­ger deficit against North Carolina in the East Re­gion fi­nal, never got closer than four points down the stretch.

On Fri­day night, Ohio State Coach Thad Matta showed the four play­ers he ex­pected would guard Green a 10- minute video of the Big East player of the year. In his first seven post­sea­son games, Green av­er­aged 18 points on 13.7 shots. But against Ohio State, he wasn’t cred­ited with his first shot at­tempt un­til a drive with 3: 15 left in the first half. In the sec­ond half, nearly 14 min­utes elapsed be­fore he at­tempted his first shot. On at least two oc­ca­sions, Green had the ball swiped away from be­hind him by a guard as he tried to drib­ble in the post.

“ I didn’t want to force any­thing, so I just took what they gave me,” said Green, who at­tempted his fewest num­ber of shots since a 56- 52 loss to Vil­lanova on Jan. 8, when he also took five. “ They played great help- side de­fense with the other guy help­ing on the weak side. It made it hard for my team­mates to throw it down or try to find me. . . . You got to credit their de­fense.”

Said Ge­orge­town Coach John Thompson III: “ I’ve said for three years now I trust Jeff Green’s in­stincts. He made the de­ci­sions when to pass it out, when to shoot. . . . We put the ball in his hands and he de­cided not to shoot. As I said, I’ll live and die with Jeff Green’s abil­ity to make de­ci­sions.”

The Hoyas also took some so­lace in know­ing that they brought the pro­gram its first out­right Big East reg­u­lar sea­son and tour­na­ment ti­tle since 1989, and to its fifth Fi­nal Four.

“ It’s hard to end it like this, but we had a great run,” Green said. “ We beat some of the top teams in the na­tion to make it to this point, but tonight wasn’t our night. We lost to a great team in Ohio State. We can’t hang our heads.”

BY JONATHAN NEW­TON — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Ohio State cen­ter Greg Oden is cleared for take­off in the sec­ond half. Oden missed the dunk, but Ge­orge­town’s Jeff Green was called for the block­ing foul.

BY JONATHAN NEW­TON — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

As Jeff Green plows into Ohio State’s David Lighty and is called for an of­fen­sive foul, Greg Oden is in po­si­tion for what might have been an­other block.

BY JOHN MCDONNELL — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Lighty, one of the cat­a­lysts of the Buck­eyes’ solid guard play, shoots over the Hoyas’ Ver­non Mack­lin. Lighty fin­ished with five points and three re­bounds in 25 min­utes.

BY JONATHAN NEW­TON — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Roy Hib­bert scores two of his 19 points, the easy way. But he was plagued by foul trou­ble: “I just had to make smarter de­ci­sions when I was out there.”

BY JOHN MCDONNELL — THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Oden low­ers his shoul­der and is called for an of­fen­sive foul on Green early in the game. It was Oden’s sec­ond per­sonal foul.

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