Oden’s dominance affecting all aspects of the game for Buckeyes

Paul Cordes

A certain Ohio State 7-foot center made Sunday afternoon a long and embarrassing one for the Minnesota men’s basketball team.

Buckeyes freshman center Greg Oden’s scored a quiet 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds during his 21 minutes of play in Ohio State’s 85-67 win over the Gophers.

Oden struggled early as he had trouble hitting shots and committed a pair of turnovers, but Ohio State coach Thad Matta said despite Oden being just 19 years old, he is one of the most mature players on the court.

“Greg is obviously a tremendous player,” Matta said. “He knows it’s a long game and he’s got great composure and improves out there everyday.

“I don’t think his heart rate ever gets above 60.”

The young star out of Indiana has gained a lot of attention in his first and possibly final year of college basketball and has become the focus of preparation for opposing teams.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, as teams converge inside, Ohio State’s perimeter players have the ability to take over the game – something Minnesota found out the hard way.

“Greg is so active inside and gets a lot of attention, and that just opens so many things up for us,” Matta said.

The Buckeyes shot 49.2 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three-point range, but more importantly made shots at pivotal times, crushing any Gophers momentum and ruining any chance of a possible Minnesota comeback.

Gophers junior guard Lawrence McKenzie said Ohio State’s perimeter shooters are definitely good.

“Sure, Oden’s a big part of what they do,” he said. “But they got guys on the perimeter that can all shoot and they can all make big plays and that’s what makes them so good.”

The Buckeyes had four players score in double digits and got clutch shooting from freshman guards Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook who have been impressive all year long.

Minnesota interim coach Jim Molinari said the future for the trio of Cook, Conley and Oden couldn’t be brighter.

“I think you’ll see them in the NBA, I really believe that,” Molinari said. “Right now, they are enjoying winning a lot more and accepting their roles.”

With teams realizing the potential of not just Oden, but the rest of the Buckeyes, it makes defending all the more difficult.

Gophers freshman center Bryce Webster held his own defensively against Oden in the first half, but eventually, double-teaming Oden became impossible because of the threat the perimeter players posed.

The well-balanced attack by Ohio State proved far too much for Minnesota to handle as the Buckeyes started piling it on in the second half.

Gophers sophomore guard Jamal Abu-Shamala said when you have a team that is strong both inside and out, it’s tough to play defense.

“They have the best center in the country down low and some of the best shooters in the country around the perimeter, so you can’t double (team),” he said. “You can’t compensate one thing for the other and they just run a really tough style.”

Oden is expected to be one of the top two picks in this year’s NBA Draft, should he turn pro, and with that in mind, Matta said he’ll take pleasure in the time that Oden is at Ohio State.

“I’m just enjoying it while I can,” Matta said of coaching Oden. “But he’s made me a better coach and a better person.”