Ohio State's Jamar Butler (14) pressures Tennessee's Chris Lofton (5) in the back court. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)
Jan. 13, 2007
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ron Lewis finally gave Ohio State's fans something to smile about.
Lewis hit a 3-pointer with 11.2 seconds left to help the fifth-ranked Buckeyes beat No. 16 Tennessee 68-66 on Saturday.
Asked what he was thinking about as he came off a weave and popped free at the top of the key, Lewis said, "I just thought about winning. I didn't know how many points we were down. I just knew we needed a bucket to win."
His shot - he had made just one of his four shots before that - saved Ohio State's fans from what had been a bleak week.
Ohio State's football team was humiliated 41-14 by Florida in the BCS national championship game on Monday night. The Buckeyes fell to 0-8 in bowl games against Southeastern Conference teams.
Lewis' basket finally gave Ohio State a win over an SEC team. It also provided the Buckeyes with their first win against a ranked team this season after losses to top-10 road opponents North Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin.
"We were 0-3," guard Jamar Butler said. "We talked about getting a win and we finally got one."
It never would have happened without a Herculean effort from center Greg Oden.
Oden played his most dominating game so far - 24 points, 15 rebounds and numerous shots altered on defense - to lead the Buckeyes (14-3). Mike Conley Jr., his high school teammate, added 16 points.
"He's a dominant player," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said of Oden, last year's national high school player of the year who was highly recruited. "He's got a chance to be Bill Russell at 7-foot. He's got a chance to be a real impact player."
Oden said he simply tried to make the most of a height advantage of several inches over the shorter Volunteers.
"Coach had the mind-set we were going to attack them inside," Oden said. "My teammates did a good job of getting the ball to me in the right spots. It was a dunk from there."
Oden hit 9-of-13 shots from the field, all six of his foul shots - shooting left-handed because he still wears a brace on his shooting hand from surgery to reattach a ligament in his wrist - and adding four assists, three blocked shots and a steal.
Tennessee caused headaches for the Buckeyes with its fullcourt pressure in the second half, but with Oden prowling the lane the Volunteers fell behind by 10 points early.
They fought back to take their first lead at 64-63 since late in the first half when Lofton cut through the paint for a layup with just under a minute remaining.
Conley hit a pair of foul shots, with Lofton answering on another drive. After each team missed a shot, Lofton - an 82 percent free-throw shooter - missed the front end of a bonus situation with 23.9 seconds left and the Volunteers holding a 66-65 lead.
The Buckeyes hurried down and ran the weave with three guards, Lewis sliding into the open and never hesitating with the shot.
"He's accustomed to winning," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "Last year at Northwestern he hit a big shot down the stretch and he's hit some big free throws for us. We needed a basket and he found a seam."
Tennessee rushed the ball up the floor with Smith trying an off-balance shot in the lane that missed the mark.
"Ramar's good at taking it to the basket. He got a decent look," Pearl said. "And his head was up - maybe someone leaves a shooter (open) and we make the shot."
Wayne Chism's tip bounced around the rim before falling off.
"We just got back and tried to tip the ball away from their basket, away from the other team," Oden said. "They almost got a tip-in - I got elbowed in the head. I was worried at that point."
The ball was batted outside to Butler who held onto it in front of the Tennessee bench while the final seconds ticked away before heaving the ball in the air.
Ohio State had huge advantages at the line and on the boards. The Buckeyes were 18-of-20 on free throws to Tennessee's 5-of-11, and held a 46-29 edge on the boards.
"I knew it was going to be an exciting game," Matta said. "I didn't know it was going to be quite that exciting."