Glimpses of March Madness
Top images from the first and second rounds of the men’s NCAA Tournament.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Just as his team was about to be shoved from the NCAA tournament, Greg Oden shoved back even harder.
Ohio State’s behemoth center fouled out of his first collegiate game Saturday with nine seconds left, sending Xavier’s Justin Cage first to the ground, then to the free throw line with a chance to seal the upset.
It was a shove of frustration, possibly desperation. It also provided a reminder that while Oden might have an NBA body and NBA stock, he’s still a freshman.
“I just look at that foul as, they’re going to call bull crap fouls,” Oden said. “I might as well get one that’s hard.”
Too hard, said Cage, who contended it should have been called an intentional, giving Xavier both the shots and possession.
Instead, with Oden on the bench, Cage missed one of his two free throws, and the Buckeyes’ Ron Lewis came up with the late heroics — a 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime.
Ohio State’s 78-71 comeback victory delayed a decision — at least for one weekend — on whether Oden will return for his sophomore year in Columbus or head to the NBA, where he could be the No. 1 pick.
If the possibility of playing his final college game was on his mind Saturday, Oden didn’t acknowledge it.
“I just knew that somebody was going to step up,” Oden said. “You never want to think negative.”
That included his coach, who said Oden’s fifth foul was the kind of aggressive play that has turned the center into a collegiate force his first season.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
That, said coach Thad Matta, was just Oden being Oden.
“There’s a few words I would use to describe Greg Oden,” Matta said. “One of them is ’winner.’ This kid wins. He enjoys winning. For him to cheer or encourage his teammates, it says so much about who he is and what he stands for.”
After the Buckeyes advanced, some players said their ability to do so without their big guy might have built up the team’s confidence. And, they pointed out, they’ve done it before — including the season’s first seven games, when Oden didn’t play because of a wrist injury.
“When Greg fouls out, we don’t have a low presence,” Lewis said. “It tends for the other players to get aggressive. That’s what I did down the stretch.”
Relieved to be advancing to the round of 16, Oden heaped the credit on his teammates.
“They picked up where I couldn’t do it,” he said.
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
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