Despite Low Stats, Oden Still ‘Disrupts The Game’ (Men’s Basketball)

Nina Mandell

By Nina MandellThe Daily Northwestern

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s not like they hadn’t heard of Greg Oden.

The team watched the tapes, heard about the career-best game last week when he burned Tennessee for 24 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. They knew he was considered a shoo-in for one of the top picks in the NBA Draft next year should he decide to go pro, even if his profile on the Ohio State athletic Web site says he’s going to wait for graduation.

And although he was silent on offense, the 7-foot center made his presence known on defense as the Wildcats shied away from going close to the lane. He finished the game leading the team with five blocks and six rebounds.

“He disrupted the game,” senior Tim Doyle said. “We’re not going to see another team in the country with a guy like that in the middle – so agile. So it’s something I’ll never forget, playing against him and he was everything he’s built up to be defensively. He changed the game.”

But on defense, the team had to worry about everything but Oden.

Despite getting more game experience and making more impact each game, the freshman came far from topping last week’s career-best performance, scoring only five points against the Cats.

As the game began, it looked like he was going to dominate the game again when he effortlessly grabbed the tip off, putting it in perfect position away from Northwestern senior center Vince Scott. And he continued in the first three minutes, when without even really jumping, he grabbed two consecutive rebounds and swatted away a sloppy pass for a steal with his 7-foot-6 wingspan.

But like when Wisconsin star Alando Tucker fell flat on offense except for a few key plays in NU’s last game, it took more than a little help from the much-hyped Tucker’s teammates for Ohio State to dominate the Cats’ defense.

“Northwestern was sinking in – they were focused on where he was,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.

Oden didn’t get his first points until 4:29 remained in the first half, when he put in a turnaround dunk, drawing a foul from NU forward Tim Doyle. Before that, his only real scoring chance came when he missed a turnaround layup.

Oden finished the first half strong with a decisive dunk and three blocks, but came out in the second half just as silent on offense, going scoreless and at times hanging back on the transition while teammates Mike Conley and Jamar Butler racked up the majority of the team’s points and highlight reel plays off fast breaks, quick cuts and 3-pointers.