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SOUTH REGIONAL ROUNDUP

Lewis saves day for Buckeyes

March 18, 2007|From the Associated Press

Ron Lewis revived Ohio State's national championship hopes with a long three-point basket with two seconds left to force overtime, then Mike Conley Jr. dominated the extra period for a 78-71 victory over Xavier in a second-round game at Lexington, Ky.

Top-seeded Ohio State trailed, 55-44, with 7 1/2 minutes left, and was behind, 61-52, with 2:54 left.

When Greg Oden fouled out after shoving Xavier's Justin Cage -- who rebounded an errant Buckeyes shot in the final 10 seconds -- they appeared to be in serious trouble.

Cage then made of one of two free throws with 9.3 seconds left for a 62-59 lead, giving Ohio State its last chance. Lewis then made the tying three-pointer from several feet beyond the arc.

"I was just trying to get an open look. I told Mike before we even left the huddle, 'Just give me the ball.' That's what he did. He found me," Lewis said.

"That's what I love about this team," Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said. "They give you, as a coach, a lot of confidence. I kept telling them, keep your confidence and make plays, and they did."

With Oden on the bench, fellow freshman -- and high school teammate -- Conley took over. He scored 11 points in overtime, and the Buckeyes (32-3) were never threatened again in winning their 19th consecutive game.

The Buckeyes advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since they went to the Final Four in 1999 -- an appearance later vacated because of NCAA probation.

They will play the winner of today's game between Tennessee and Virginia.

The ninth-seeded Musketeers (25-9), who have a history of pulling upsets in the NCAA tournament, couldn't quite get the job done after 6-foot-6 Cage -- using his quickness to drive around and sometimes score over 7-foot Oden -- delivered eight points during a 16-3 run that gave Xavier a chance for an upset.

Cage, who led Xavier with 25 points, had a chance to virtually clinch the victory. He made the first free throw but missed the second.

"I wasn't nervous. I just shot them like I normally do," Cage said. "It went in and out, so I just wanted to get back on defense and hope that they didn't make it."

Conley dominated the extra period. He scored Ohio State's first seven points, then made four free throws over the final 1:03.

Lewis finished with 27 points, shooting four for five from three-point range and making all seven of his free throws. Conley scored 21, and Oden had 14 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 35 minutes.

Texas A&M 72, Louisville 69 -- The third-seeded Aggies (27-6) had to overcome a career-high 31 points from Edgar Sosa and a raucous Rupp Arena crowd, most of which made the 80-mile trip to Lexington to watch the sixth-seeded Cardinals (24-10) try to make it back to the round of 16 for the second time in three years.

But by game's end, Sosa simply ran out of magic. After making 15 straight free throws, he missed two with 29.8 seconds left and the Cardinals trailing by one.

Sosa had another chance after Texas A&M's Joseph Jones missed two free throws, but his long three-point shot hit the back of the rim and the ball made its way into the hands of Acie Law IV, the Aggies' star guard.

Law, whose 26 points helped send the Aggies to the round of 16 for the first time in 27 years, made both free throws with 1.7 seconds left to give them a three-point lead.

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