Final Four: Hoya Turnova

By David Scott - March 31, 2007

It wasn't even a storyline coming into the national semifinal, nor should it have been. Both Ohio State and Georgetown had made their March Madness runs without the sadness of turning the ball over extensively.

For Ohio State, which had valued the ball all year, its highest turnover game of the entire post-season was 14 (against Xavier in the second round of the NCAAs). The Hoyas had been even more protective of the rock committing its post-season-high of 12 turnovers against Belmont in the first round of the NCAAs.

But the Hoyas reverted to the form that had appeared in fits and starts throughout the season - including back-to-back 19 turnover games to end the regular season - with 14 turnovers in Saturday night's 67-60 loss to Ohio State. Though not an astronomical number, those turns were converted into 22 points. The Buckeyes had just eight turns that resulted in 10 Hoya points.

"That was obviously a key to the game, I think," said OSU's Thad Matta. "We weren't sure if we could turn them over. We did a great job of covering down the way we wanted to and scoop some balls up, got out (and advanced it). I thought our guys did a nice job of finishing in the transition zone."

His guys - especially the fantasmical freshman guard, Mike Conley, Jr - also did a nice job controlling the tempo and making good decisions. Conley had 15 points, six assists and one turnover and played all but one minute of the game. The tandem of Ron Lewis and Jamar Butler combined for 19 Buckeye points, six assists three turnovers and three steals (the team had eight steals as a whole). And the Hoya big men (DaJuan Summers, Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert) acocunted for 8 of the 14 Ohio State turnovers.

Coach John Thompson III didn't see it coming from his club.

"You know, if your question is going into this game did I think we would have a lot of turnovers or there would be turnover problems?," said the coach who grew weary of the questioning toward the end of his press conference. "No, just because we have done a fairly good job of taking care of the ball [the Hoyas averaged 13.4 turnovers per game coming into the Final Four]. You know, did I put a game plan together anticipating turnovers? No.

"You know, it happened. That's because of their defense. That's because you have to give them all the credit in the world for that."

"We played team defense," said OSU senior forward Ivan Harris (nine points, seven rebounds, an assist, a steal and a turnover). The Buckeyes have now committed just 48 turns in their five NCAA games (9.6 per game) and it is the team's third straight eight-turnover game.

The Hoyas had the majority of their turns in the first half (nine), but started to get careless again in the deciding minutes of the game, including a key turn on a debatable offensive charge call on Jeff Green with 2:32 left in the game and the Hoyas down just four points. Green also had a turnover with 4:49 left and the Hoya deficit at six points.

"We just had too many turnovers to be honest, in the first half," said Hoya junior forward, Patrick Ewing, Jr. "They had 13 points off turnovers (at half) and only had 27 points. Thirteen of their first 20 points were off turnovers. We just kind of reverted back to what we were doing in the first half with a lot of turnovers and let them get easy buckets.

"If we wouldn't have had so many turnovers, maybe something else would have happened," he said.

"The big key was the defense down the stretch," said Matta, 39, who has a chance to become the first head coach under 40 years of age to win the title since Jim Valvano in 1983. "It led to some easy opportunities, probably the difference in the ballgame."

It was the difference that no one had really contemplated coming in, what with all the discussion of the Big Man match-up between Roy Hibbert and Greg Oden. But it was the difference, in the end, that puts the Buckeyes in the title game and sends the Hoyas back to D.C. where they will toss and turn(over) at what could have been if they had valued the ball more.

Posted by David Scott at 10:19 PM on March 31, 2007

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