Ohio State overcomes 17-point halftime deficit, holds off Tennessee

Posted: March 23, 2007

SAN ANTONIO - The Buckeyes were dead. Cooked. Outta here. Gone. As in, it's been swell knowing you. Don't forget to pick up those lovely parting gifts on the way home.

So why do they still have at least one more game to play before Greg Oden heads off to save the franchise holding the NBA's winning lotto ticket?

You're not supposed to get two mulligans in the NCAA Tournament. Most are lucky to get one. By all rights, the top-ranked team at the end of the regular season should have been eliminated in last Saturday's second round by Xavier. Somehow they survived, in overtime.

But sometimes, all you need is that one break to go your way and it can carry you a long way. Maybe even all the way.

Last night at the Alamodome, Ohio State (33-3) trailed by 17 at halftime to a Tennessee (24-11) team that had nearly beaten them 2 months ago in Columbus. You figure one scare would have been sufficient. Obviously, the Buckeyes needed another reminder.

Eventually they found a way, as the best teams are supposed to do.

Ohio State 85, Tennessee 84. The Buckeyes tomorrow will play second seed Memphis, which outlasted Texas A & M, and what seemed like half of College Station, in the opener.

Mike Conley Jr., OSU's terrific freshman point guard, hit one of two free throws with 6.5 seconds left for the winning points. But it didn't become official until Oden blocked Ramar Smith's drive to the basket just before the buzzer.

It's Ohio State's first trip to the Final Eight since the 1999 team made it to the Final Four, although that doesn't officially count anymore because of some NCAA recruiting violations. Before that you have to go back to the 1992 club that lost to Michigan's Fab Five.

Third-year coach Thad Matta, of course, took Xavier this far in 2004. And almost beat Duke once he got there. *

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