- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2006

DAYTON, Ohio — There’s one man standing between Georgetown and the Sweet 16: Big Ten player of the year Terence Dials.

The 6-foot-9, 260-pound senior from Youngstown, Ohio, is an immovable force in the middle of Ohio State’s attack, providing the only semblance of balance for the otherwise guard-centric Buckeyes (26-5). And when Georgetown (22-9) meets second-seeded Ohio State today in front of a Buckeyes-partisan crowd in the second round of the NCAA tournament, containing Dials (15.1 points, 8.2 rebounds) will be its top priority.

“He reminds me an awful lot of Mike Sweetney,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said, referencing the Hoyas’ 2003 honorable mention All-American. “He has great hands, and though he’s not the quickest guy, he has a nice array of post moves and an uncanny ability to finish.”

But Dials also has a nasty habit of getting himself into foul trouble.

Though he has fouled out only once this season, Dials picked up three or more fouls in 20 of the team’s 31 games. And the Buckeyes faced only one frontcourt during that season that can compare to Georgetown’s trio of 7-2 Roy Hibbert, 6-9 Jeff Green and 6-9 Brandon Bowman, clipping a pivot-loaded LSU team 78-76 on New Year’s Eve in Columbus.

The issue for the Buckeyes is they have almost no player behind Dials on the bench. Backup center Matt Terwilliger is still recovering from an emergency appendectomy. And starting forward Matt Sylvester, while looking the part at 6-7, 230 pounds, is more of a 3-point specialist — his paltry rebounding average (2.7) betraying his preference for perimeter play.

In fact, aside from Dials, Ohio State is pure run-and-gun, attempting 702 shots from 3-point range this season (22.6 per game).

That Dials/long distance approach worked beautifully for the Buckeyes for most of the season. In fact, through two-thirds of the season, senior guard Je’Kel Foster (12.3 points) was leading the nation in 3-point shooting (52.9 percent). But in the last 10 games, Foster has been in a funk, making just 10 of his 66 3-point attempts (15.2 percent).

And while the Buckeyes still have won eight of those 10 games, they’ve leaned progressively more on Dials during Foster’s drought. That’s why Georgetown is so intent upon limiting the Buckeyes’ big man on the defensive end and attacking him on the offensive end.

“It all starts with taking away Dials,” Georgetown senior Darrel Owens said. “If we can force them to be a 3-point shooting team, and force them to take contested 3-pointers, our chances of success improve dramatically.”

The Hoyas will need monstrous efforts from their frontcourt triad to break the Buckeyes’ balance and force them into a one-dimensional attack. And given that Ohio State surrounds Dials with four capable shooters, Georgetown will have to manage the Ohio State center primarily while employing a man-to-man defense.

Hibbert will, no doubt, begin the game with that lonely task in the middle, and Dials admits he never has encountered such a towering opponent.

“I can’t recall too many 7-footers. He’s probably the biggest guy I’ve played to this point,” said Dials, who was clearly miffed by the volume of questions he received yesterday about Georgetown’s blossoming low-post beast. “He’s definitely going to pose some problems for us, being 7-2 and pretty skilled. … But I’ve played 31 games this season. I’ve played the same way all season long. I’m not going to change my game because he’s 7-2.”

In spite of all the talk in Dayton surrounding Hibbert’s opening-round performance against Northern Iowa (17 points, nine rebounds) and his potential head-to-head clash with Dials, Green is likely to spend as much or more time checking the Ohio State stud as Hibbert does for two reasons.

First, the Hoyas are likely to have to go small with Owens instead of Hibbert in the lineup to counteract Ohio State’s perimeter quickness. And second, Georgetown’s motion offense runs far smoother with Green instead of Hibbert as the team’s principal post presence. And that second point should be enhanced today, because Ohio State hasn’t played zone against any team this season. Dials is not particularly quick, and he’s likely to have all sorts of problems covering Green one on one.

Georgetown exploited a similar matchup edge against Duke earlier this season, when Green pulled Shelden Williams away from the basket and then shredded the Blue Devils’ defense by feeding cutting teammates.

“People just see Roy and Dials, but I think I’ll spend a fair amount of time on him, and I’m ready for that challenge,” Green said. “I know I’ll have my hands full, but so will he, because I think I can use my quickness against him.”

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