Buckeyes survive thriller

After 3 ties it in final seconds, top seed rolls in overtime

Ohio State 78 Xavier 71

South Regional

March 18, 2007|By Emily Badger | Emily Badger,Orlando Sentinel

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The winning coach didn't look all that happy and neither did the fan-favorite face of the winning team after No. 1 seed Ohio State survived a come-from-behind victory in overtime against No. 9 seed Xavier yesterday in the South Regional.

Ohio State center Greg Oden sat in the Buckeyes' locker room glowering over how he'd let his team down. He fouled out with nine seconds to play in regulation and missed all of the overtime frame, in which guard Mike Conley Jr. scored 11 of his 21 points to carry the Buckeyes to the 78-71 win.

And then there was Thad Matta, the former Xavier and current Ohio State head coach, who advanced to the Sweet 16 by beating several of the players he once called his own.

"This was a very, very difficult game to coach, from the standpoint that I'm as happy as I've ever been, but I'm as sad as I've ever been," Matta said, reflecting on the current Xavier seniors he had recruited there. "I feel bad that I was there for those guys' first college game, and I was there for the last one, you think of the irony of all of it."

Xavier (25-8) was setting up the day's first stunner when a 16-3 run put the Musketeers up 55-44 with seven and a half minutes to play. They led by as much as nine with just under four minutes remaining, but then Ohio State countered with eight straight points.

The Buckeyes' Jamar Butler attempted a three to pull ahead with 16 seconds on the clock. The shot missed, and in the rebounding scrum under the basket after David Lighty botched a tip-in, Xavier's Justin Cage corralled the ball. Oden, Ohio State's best candidate for a second-chance basket under the net, also turned out to be the Buckeyes' closest man at the time to foul Cage. It was his fifth of the game.

Xavier fans cried that it was an intentional foul, but the referees didn't agree.

Cage made the first shot but missed the second, putting Xavier up 62-59.

Ohio State (31-3) shuttled the rebound ball straight to guard Ron Lewis, who pulled up for a three from near the top of the key with two seconds on the clock.

"I just said, `Oh God ...'" Cage recalled.

The ball went in, and the game went into overtime.

It took Xavier everything it had to lead through 39 minutes and 58 seconds. What followed in the next five minutes was a rout - even without Oden. The Buckeyes made their first four shots, including a pair of threes, and were suddenly up eight points.

"It really felt like we had worn down physically somewhat," Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

Ohio State advances but, in retrospect, only on the grace of a missed free throw.

"ESPN's lucky I missed that free throw, because they really doubted us," Cage said. "I just want to put that our there: so lucky I missed that free throw."

Emily Badger writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

XAVIER-Cage 8-8 6-8 25, Doellman 6-13 0-0 13, Cole 2-6 2-3 6, Lavender 2-13 0-0 5, Burrell 1-7 1-3 3, Duncan 4-9 0-0 11, Brown 1-1 2-2 4, Raymond 1-3 0-0 2, Wolf 1-1 0-0 2, Love 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-61 11-16 71. OHIO STATE-Harris 0-2 0-0 0, Oden 5-12 4-7 14, Conley Jr. 7-15 6-6 21, Lewis 8-13 7-7 27, Butler 5-10 0-0 13, Lighty 0-1 0-0 0, Cook 1-7 0-0 3, Terwilliger 0-1 0-0 0, Hunter 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 26-63 17-20 78. Half-Ohio State, 29-25. End of regulation-Tied 62. 3-point goals-Xavier 8-23 (Cage 3-3, Duncan 3-6, Doellman 1-5, Lavender 1-6, Burrell 0-1, Raymond 0-2), Ohio St. 9-21 (Lewis 4-5, Butler 3-7, Conley Jr. 1-3, Cook 1-4, Harris 0-2). Fouled out-Oden. Rebounds-Xavier 28 (Doellman 7), Ohio St. 45 (Oden 12). Assists-Xavier 13 (Lavender 8), Ohio St. 10 (Conley Jr. 4). Total fouls-Xavier 21, Ohio St. 19. A-n/a.

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