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March 15, 2007
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Central Connecticut doubled up on Greg Oden in his first NCAA tournament game, so he doubled up, too.
Ohio State's freshman sensation had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the top-seeded Buckeyes' 78-57 win over Central Connecticut on Thursday in the South Regional's opening round.
Oden earned his 12th double-double of the season. But as the Buckeyes (31-3) showed during their somewhat workmanlike victory over the Northeastern Conference champions, they are hardly a one-prodigy show.
Jamar Butler scored 17 points and Ron Lewis added 13 as the Buckeyes quickly dispatched the game but ultimately overmatched the Blue Devils (22-12). Ohio State needed less than 5 minutes to build a double-digit lead and kept the pressure on well into the second half.
Javier Mojica led Central Connecticut with 19 points. It wasn't nearly enough to become the first No. 16 seed to win an NCAA tournament game, even with the stones given to the team by school president John Miller to symbolize David vs. Goliath.
The CCSU players laughed the day before the game when asked whether they'd consider rolling the stones onto the court in an effort to slow Oden down.
They might have wanted to send a few toward Butler and Lewis, too.
With the Blue Devils double- and triple-teaming Oden, Butler and Lewis had plenty of wide-open looks from the outside and took full advantage. Five of Ohio State's first six field goals were 3-pointers, and by the time the Blue Devils caught their breath, they were down 17-3.
CCSU eventually collected itself, but by then the Buckeyes and Oden had left little doubt about their dominance.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta warned his players about overlooking the Blue Devils, who have just nine players on their roster, none of them taller than 6-foot-7. Matta was an assistant coach at Western Carolina in 1996 when the 16th-seeded Catamounts nearly upset Michigan State.
Other than a slight swoon midway through the second half, the Buckeyes players seemed to be listening, particularly Oden and fellow freshman Mike Conley Jr.
The Buckeyes were all business during the first half, though they did try to squeeze in a little fun.
During one sequence, Ohio State's Othello Hunter tried to throw the ball off the backboard to Oden at the end of a fast break. Oden grabbed the ball and slammed it down much to the delight of the pro-Ohio State crowd who had made the three-hour trip from Columbus for the game. A CCSU foul negated the dunk, leading Oden to slap his hands in frustration. It was one of the few times he'd been stopped all night.
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