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December 19, 2006
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -With all the talk about a showdown with defending national champion Florida on Saturday, No. 3 Ohio State seemed to forget it had another game to play.
"Iowa State did a tremendous job and came to play," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. "As I told our guys, we were not mentally as ready as we needed to start this basketball game. I d]on't know how or why, but it's a good lesson for a young basketball team."
The Buckeyes (10-1) finished the game on an 18-3 run over the final 5:45.
Matta said he didn't think his team was looking past the Cyclones.
"It's hard to tell at times when you're dealing with young men, where their minds are," he said. "Obviously, that weighs in. But I don't know. I knew we had a war on our hands tonight."
The same schools meet for the football national championship on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.
Playing before a raucous crowd of 18,905 at Value City Arena, the Buckeyes struggled most of the game before Conley led a defensive charge that turned it into a rout.
"We just stepped up our defense," Conley said. "We came out playing a fullcourt press and that got us going. We got a lot of transition buckets from that. I fed off of that energy that everybody was giving at that time, especially defense. I just tried to make things happen and help our team get over this hump."
Conley, who played with Oden at Indianapolis' Lawrence North High School, had three steals and six assists and seemed to grab every loose ball and make every deflection in the waning moments.
It was something Oden had seen Conley do during their high school years.
"He did it when he wanted to," Oden said. "If he wanted to, he would take over."
"The team that we played today didn't back down," Cook said. "We came out thinking that Iowa State was going to back down, but they didn't. They played harder than what we thought and they kind of shocked us."
The Buckeyes ran off 15 straight points in the first half and seemed to have the game in hand before Iowa State fought back to draw to 29-28 at halftime. Taylor had 13 points for the Cyclones, twice banking in 3-pointers including one with 2 seconds left.
Iowa State, using most of the shot clock each time it had the ball, refused to buckle after Ohio State scored nine of the first 11 points in the second half. The Cyclones pulled within two points twice before the Buckeyes scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 62-53 lead.
After Taylor hit a 3-pointer with 3:52 left, the Cyclones didn't score again as the Buckeyes closed on a 13-0 run.
"A lack of discipline cost us this game," Iowa State coach Greg McDermott said. "Their ability to make plays and our inability to respond hurt us down the stretch."
Oden had a plastic cast to protect his right hand and wrist. He had surgery on that wrist in June to repair ligament damage and did not play in the Buckeyes' first seven games. Oden also had his left hand wrapped in white tape because of a jammed thumb he said he had had for weeks.
"I felt fine," he said. "If I would have gotten a transition dunk I would have felt better."
He had nine rebounds, one block and one assist.
The Buckeyes shot 53 percent from the field with Oden - who came in shooting 90 percent - going 8-of-15.
Ohio State was 13-of-15 from the free throw line while the Cyclones - content to work the ball around the perimeter and pump up jumpers - only got to the line twice.
The loudest cheers of the night may have come with both teams in the locker rooms at halftime. The top-ranked Ohio State football team was honored for winning its first outright Big Ten title since 1984. Heisman Trophy-winnning quarterback Troy Smith, coach Jim Tressel and most of the team filed onto the court.
Smith lifted the Heisman over his head with the crowd roaring.