It took 44 years, but Ohio State can finally lay claim to a victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats. Saturday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the Buckeyes walked away with a 72-50 victory at the Wooden Tradition.
Ohio State (9-1) held a 16-12 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half, but the Buckeyes finished the half with an impressive 26-2 run keyed by several big defensive plays and poor shooting by the Bearcats. Freshman center Greg Oden was a force for Ohio State, scoring 10 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots on his way to 14 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks on the afternoon.
"It was an aggressive game," said the 7-foot freshman. "They were an aggressive team."
The Bearcats struggled offensively, especially in the first half. Through 20 minutes, Cincinnati was 6-of-32 from the field including 0-of-13 from three-point range. For the game, Cincinnati shot 26 percent on 19-of-73 shooting.
It was especially tough for Cincinnati (7-3) who were coming off an emotional 10-point victory Wednesday evening in the Crosstown Shootout against Xavier.
"I think our kids were emotionally drained from Wednesday night," said head coach Mick Cronin. "They (Ohio State) outplayed us. They whipped us every way you can whip a team."
Ohio State out-rebounded Cincinnati 48-43 Saturday. The Buckeyes also had good balance with three players in double-figures including Oden, Ivan Harris and Ron Lewis.
Harris had 13 points for Ohio State while Lewis added 10.
Despite a sub-par offensive performance for Ohio State, the Buckeyes satisfied head coach Thad Matta, who all week long stressed defense to his team.
"When you play Cincinnati, you can't give them anything easy," Matta said. "I wasn't too thrilled with our shot-selection today."
Oden and Conley played at Conseco Fieldhouse in their Indianapolis homecoming. The Lawrence North graduates won three consecutive Indiana Class 4A State Championships at Conseco.
Conley added 8 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out seven assists while not turning the ball over once.
"We didn't think much about it," he said of playing at home.
John Williamson led Cincinnati in scoring. He had 17 points and also grabbed a team-high 16 rebounds.
Williamson is a Columbus, Ohio native from Marion-Franklin High School.
"I was looking forward for the game because it was the hometown team," he said. "It was hard. We haven't been in a game like that. It was embarrassing."
In addition to poor shooting for Ohio State (6-of-23 for 26 percent from three-point range), the Buckeyes also had a sluggish second half. In the last 20 minutes, Ohio State scored just 30 points (39 percent shooting) and had eight turnovers.
Cronin was asked if he saw this kind of performance coming after the victory against Xavier.
"I saw this coming when I saw the schedule," he said. "When I was hired, the last thing they gave me was a folder with the schedule in it. They gave it to me after I signed the contract.
"I still would have taken the job though," he joked.
Oden made life tough inside for the Bearcats, blocking five shots and altering many more.
"I want Greg to be a risk-taker on defense," Matta said.
Although Oden was a hot topic in the postgame press conference, the Bearcats downplayed the performance from one player.
"He's big, he's tall," added Cincinnati forward Connor Barwin. "He's the same as any other 7-footer we'll play this year."
* Prior to Saturday's game, Cincinnati's two losses were by a combined three points.
* This was the first meeting between Ohio State and Cincinnati since the 1962 National Championship game on March 24, 1962. Cincinnati beat the Buckeyes that day 71-59 for the second consecutive season. The Bearcats also beat Ohio State in 1961, 70-65 in overtime. The last time the two teams had met in the regular season was Dec. 10, 1921. Ohio State now owns a 5-4 record all-time in the series.
* Cincinnati is now 0-1 this season against AP top-25 teams. Last year, the Bearcats were 1-8 vs. ranked competition.