Worgull: ODEN-ary

Greg Oden and the rest of Ohio State's youth get shut down by the experience and poise of a veteran Wisconsin squad.

MADISON - He's been called a high school phenom; the next great NBA pro. People say that he's the type of player, like a Bill Russell, that could change the flow of a game by himself. Lauded for his extraordinary size and his shot blocking ability, Greg Oden has the potential to be that player in the pros.

The only problem is that on Tuesday night, the elder Badgers exploited the youngster in front of a national audience.

With Oden doing most of his damage this season in the paint, Badgers Jason Chappell and Marcus Landry shut down the freshman's abilities in a 72-69 Badger victory.

When guards Jamar Butler and Mike Conley Jr. looked to go inside to the big man, either Chappell or Landry was right there to deny the pass. When Oden did finally get his hands on the ball, he was forced to kick it out because of a constant double team. In the first half, Oden accumulated as many fouls as he did points (two) and only attempted one field goal.

One of the main reasons to Oden's struggles was the stingy play of senior Jason Chappell. Not known for his hard-nosed defense, Chappell's main job was keeping Oden in check, letting Oden come to him instead of the other way around. With some help from his fellow big men, Chappell succeed in his job.

"Jason will be the first one to tell you that he got some help," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "He wasn't as aggressive early it didn't seem. He was letting Oden come to him and doing a decent job. All the guys [Stiemsma, Landry, Butch and Krabbenhoft] tended to help as much as they could."

"[Chappell] was a spark for us [on Oden]," senior Alando Tucker said. "He did all the right things for us and he's been doing it for us all season. He made a lot of keys plays that are unspoken about. We told him that after the game and we'll tell him that tomorrow."

The shooting woes aren't anything new to Oden. In Ohio State's first Big Ten road contest, Oden was only 3-for-12 from the floor in the Buckeyes' 18-point win in Champaign. Regardless, Oden was still a factor, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking four Illinois shots.

Early Tuesday night, Oden couldn't gain any momentum due to his foul trouble. After picking his second at the 12 minute mark of the first half, Oden returned to the bench for the remainder of the half, throwing his towel down in disgust after being taken out. His frustrations were understandable, as Oden, a big go-to-guy for the Buckeyes, couldn't generate a spark for his team.

Oden didn't fair much better in the second half. Despite blocking a career-high six Wisconsin shots, Oden was out of possession on just as many shots, with the Badgers younger, swifter guards taking advantage of his slower mobility. On the offensive glass, Oden was stymied, often forced to kick the ball out back to the perimeter.

"I thought [the defense on Greg] was good and it looked like a group effort," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "They're physical in not letting him get to his spot. That's something we have to continue to work with Greg on."

But while Oden struggled, his defender thrived. Giving up three inches and 55 pounds the freshman, sophomore Marcus Landry did all Badger dirty work. While his stats don't reflect his work (4-for-10 for 10 points), Landry forced Oden's hand on numerous occasions and blocked four Buckeye shots in the process.

"Greg Oden is a really good player," Landry said. "I was giving up height and weight on Oden, so I just did what I could to take things away from him. I tried my hardest to work my feet and make him work for everything he got. I think I gave the team a boost and helped everybody out."

Oden wasn't alone in his young struggles, as McDonalds All-American Daequan Cook couldn't buy a bucket. Cook only managed one basket on eight attempts for a season-low five points. Fellow freshman Mike Conley Jr. (the Big Ten leader in assists and steals) played the best of the Buckeye freshman class, scoring seven points and registering five assists before fouling out late in the game.

"Deaquon had some good looks and they didn't go down," Matta said. "It was an extremely physical game obviously. They got a lot of bodies down there. [Wisconsin] did a nice job."

But the Buckeye youth showed in the hostile Kohl Center, a place where they haven't won in since January 2000. Averaging 39.0 points between the three of them, Cook, Conley and Oden managed only 22 against the Badgers. Juxtapose to Wisconsin's three seniors (Chappell, Taylor and Tucker) who scored 45 points between them.

"For us playing together when in came down to a clutch situation, we held our composure," Tucker said. "This time in the season, you have to be gelled as a team. It's always interesting to see how a bunch of young guys will act in this type of situation. I am sure they'll learn from this."

Even with his struggles, Oden flexed his muscles late in the game to help the Buckeyes close the gap. Oden slammed two thunderous dunks, the latter making it a one possession game, with less than 40 seconds to go. While his final line is respectable (10 points, seven rebounds and six blocks), it was the Badgers defense that kept the phenom grounded for at least one more game.

"The scary part is that, for Oden, he's young," Ryan said as he praised the freshman. "He'll use a game like this, and for most guys like him, he'll get better. I'm glad this happened early."

Next time, the Badgers, along with the rest of the Big Ten, might not be so fortunate. A phenom, even with only one good hand, doesn't stay down for long.

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