Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ohio State 78 Xavier 71 (OT)

A miracle finish! An anarchist miracle, but a miracle nevertheless.

Just as I was all set to write their obituary and close the book on the 2007 basketball season Ohio State pulls off the comeback of the year.

So let's review. All game long, Xavier defensed the Buckeyes to perfection. They kept them off balance and prevented OSU from taking advantage of their inside strength or their outside shooting. On the offensive side of the ball, Xavier moved well, got some lovely passes for layups when the inside game was working, and hit clutch shots from the outside. Nothing spectacular but enough to keep the game close and put some doubt in the minds of the Bucks.

Then, midway through the second half, OSU went stone cold, and Xavier found their shooting hand, hitting everything in sight. OSU would get a bucket, Xavier would get a 3. OSU would throw up a prayer, and Xavier would come back for another 3. The nightmare scenario for OSU . With Xavier hitting shots and jamming the lane, Oden was completely taken out of the game.

Should OSU loses in the tournament this is how the game will look. Xavier played them as well as anyone this season including North Carolina or Florida or Wisconsin (at home).

So there they were, down 59-50 with less than 3 minutes to go. The game was over. OH-Ver.

And then, I have no idea what happened. It's a blur. If ever there was a game for Tivo, this is the one.

OSU hit some shots. I remember Oden hit 1 out 2 free throws to keep the game within a couple of scores. They had a few awful turnovers trying to drive inside. At one point late, they had a chance to tie it and instead of going inside, they shot a three pointer that rebounded badly. One of our guys got the rebound, but fell down before he could get off a decent put back. Xavier got the ball and Oden shoved the guy into the third row for a very hard foul. There were mere seconds left. Worse yet, that was 5 fouls for Oden. He was done. The Bucks were done. The announcers were talking a mile a minute about how the Xavier players that Matta had recruited all hated him and wanted revenge. It was all over but the shouting.

So, I left the room, ready to move on to the next thing in my day. Disgusted. Disappointed. Shades of the BCS Championship running through my mind. I wasn't gone long though, and when I wandered back into the room, it was showing 62-62 on the scoreboard. End of regulation. Xavier had missed a free throw, and Lewis had hit a three-pointer from way above the top of the arc. Unbelievable.

Without Oden, OSU played their shooters and ran away with the overtime. Shocked by the turn of events, it seemed that Xavier had lost their outside touch.

At the end of the game Ron Lewis had 27 points, and Conley Jr., 21. A gutsy finish, and all the sudden Buckeye land is as grateful as you can be to have a slot in the sweet sixteen. I know I picked OSU to go all the way, but c'mon. In reality, I can't ask for more than this. Getting to the final four will require 40 minutes of perfection AND a miracle finish. The Buckeyes may surprise me yet.