Dick Jerardi | Looking for a better championship game

Posted: April 02, 2007

ATLANTA - Saturday's national semifinals had memorable moments, but, like last year, these were not memorable games, despite all the talent on the Georgia Dome floor. The Ohio State-Georgetown game never had a flow because of:

a) Foul trouble;

b) timeouts that seemed to pile upon one another.

The Florida-UCLA game was a rematch of the national title game in every way - no contest again.

Game 1

Ohio State 67, Georgetown 60

The disappearing big men

It is hard to hide 14 feet of big men, but it was done anyway. The Hoyas' Roy Hibbert got his first foul in 18 seconds. The Buckeyes' Greg Oden got two in 2 1/2 minutes, one on an illegal screen, the other on a dubious offensive foul. The officiating has been solid throughout the tournament, but college officials simply don't see players like Oden and Hibbert anymore, and they don't seem to have adjusted to how they play. That is unfortunate for the players, the fans and the game.

Best strategy

The Buckeyes played man-to-man early in last year's second-round loss to Georgetown, were quickly dizzy, and out of it. The coaches learned their lesson and came up with a unique plan. OSU really relied on its "point zone," essentially a rarely seen 1-3-1 with Ron Lewis running from corner-to-corner on the baseline.

"We thought it would be good for us against their attack, that we would be better matched up," Buckeyes associate head coach John Groce said, so they tilted everything to G-Town star Jeff Green.

The zone, with a little trapping and the occasional man, disrupted the Hoyas in the first half. They never got into any rhythm and had nine turnovers by halftime.

G-Town adjusted at halftime by running its offense through the high post and quickly solved the zone. OSU had to go man, dug in, got big stops, and pulled away down the stretch.

Key moment

Georgetown had the ball with the score tied at 44-44. DaJuan Summers missed and Hibbert missed a follow. At the other end, Lewis missed, but got the rebound and was fouled by Hibbert, his fourth, with under 9 minutes to play. Hibbert sat for a few minutes, the Buckeyes scored seven straight and the Hoyas never recovered.

Biggest surprise

The normally unflappable Green committed three rushed turnovers in the second half. He only missed one shot for the game (but took just five) and had a career-high 12 rebounds. Still, he is way better than that.

Now you know

If you watched Oden closely in the second half, you now understand what the fuss is about. After missing almost all the first half, he showed a variety of offensive moves and enough power to scare anybody this side of Shaq. Really, Oden is in the wrong league.

Critical stats

* When Hibbert (19 points) was on the floor, the Hoyas outscored the Buckeyes, 49-38.

* Summers was 1-for-10. G-Town's other four starters were 24-for-41. Hoyas junior guard Jonathan Wallace made five treys and is very quietly becoming a star.

* OSU's point guard Mike Conley had 15 points, six assists and one turnover. He sees the game in slow motion and plays at whatever speed is appropriate for the situation. He already is a star.

* Points off turnovers: OSU 22, Georgetown 10.

Quotable

OSU coach Thad Matta: "One of the biggest keys when you play a team like Georgetown is preparation." Give Ohio State an "A" in preparation.

Oden: "I was out for 17 minutes. I wanted to get in there and just tear the rim down." He came close on a dunk attempt over Green that was awe inspiring in real time, unimaginable on an incredible photo.

Game 2

Florida 76, UCLA 66

Hard to imagine

Florida scored two points in the first 7 minutes, 74 in the last 33 and shot 53.3 percent. This against a team that through four NCAA games had allowed 50.2 points and 36.3 percent shooting. The Gators are just that good.

Best plan

Florida attacked UCLA's defense by making its versatile big men into passers. When the Bruins doubled the post, which they always do, Al Horford and Joakim Noah got the ball out to the shooters. And Corey Brewer and Lee Humphrey, who made eight treys between them, combined for 33 points. Florida took just three shots in the lane during the first half. The Gators knew where to attack, and did.

Key stats

* The Gators led, 54-36, with 9 minutes left. The Bruins' great backcourt of Darren Collison and Arron Afflalo (who took himself out of the game with some silly first-half fouls) were a combined 0-for-10 at that point and the Bruins were 13-for-42. UCLA made 10 of its next 14 shots, but the damage had long since been done.

* Horford and Noah had 28 rebounds, two more than UCLA's entire team. It was a 43-26 blowout on the glass.

* Florida had eight offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points in the second half when most of their few misses ended up in the basket.

* UCLA had 19 more field-goal attempts and 13 fewer turnovers (the Bruins committed just three).

* UCLA coach Ben Howland, who calls timeouts faster than anybody since Pete Gillen, was out of them with 14 minutes left in the game.

No adjustment

UCLA upset Kansas in a very physical West Region final. Much contact was allowed. This game was officiated differently and UCLA could not adjust. Even though the game was played at their pace for a long time, the Bruins were just hanging on after the first few minutes. In horse-racing terms, UCLA bounced, playing very poorly a game after playing great.

Next year

UCLA has no seniors and nobody who is NBA-ready. If they all come back and if Oregon high school big man Kevin Love is as good as advertised, the Bruins might get back here again next season. And win it - assuming Florida's junior stars leave this time.

Quotable

Florida's Corey Brewer: "This is all about winning. There's nothing about you. It's all about the team." *

Send e-mail to jerardd@phillynews.com

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