- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2007

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ATLANTA — Georgetown’s magical run to the Final Four ended last night with Jeff Green stunningly seeing red.

In a game that otherwise went almost exactly according to the anticipated script, the Big East player of the year was an offensive no-show against Ohio State, scoring just nine points on five shots as the Buckeyes bounced the Hoyas 67-60 at the Georgia Dome.

“It hurts,” said Green, who didn’t score until the 3:14 mark in the first half, lapsing into the passive style of play that occasionally defined his early days on the Hilltop. “We lost one game, and our season’s over. It hurts a lot.”

Over the next few weeks, the 6-foot-9 junior from Hyattsville will have a major decision to make, weighing his NBA options after a brilliant season that saw him lead Georgetown (30-7) to its first Final Four in 22 years while earning third-team All-American status and collecting MVP hardware at both the Big East tournament and NCAA tournament’s East regional.

That decision became exponentially more difficult last night as he considers making his last collegiate game among the worst of an otherwise sparkling career.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Green said, speaking in a disconsolate monotone after the disappointing performance. “I didn’t want to force anything, so I just took what they gave me. They played great help-side defense with the other guy helping on the weak side. It made it hard for my teammates to throw it down or try to find me. Like I say, you’ve got to credit their defense.”

The Buckeyes (35-3) did a marvelous job of defending Green and the vaunted Georgetown offense, which led the nation in efficiency and was among the best in field goal percentage. Ohio State employed a frustrating zone throughout most of the first half, building a 27-23 lead at intermission thanks largely to the stellar play of freshman point man Mike Conley Jr. (15 points, six assists). And when the Buckeyes switched to a man-to-man defense in the second half, Conley again was the secret behind their success, flashing to double Green every time he touched the ball within 12 feet of the basket and twice stripping the Georgetown standout as he began his move.

But from Georgetown’s perspective, the most painful part of last night’s outcome is that they got almost exactly the game they expected from the Buckeyes. Continuing his NCAA tournament trend, Ohio State freshman center Greg Oden picked up two fouls before any player on the floor had broken a sweat, spending the final 17:19 of the first half sitting helplessly beside Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

Forcing the foul-prone Oden from the floor was the first piece of Georgetown’s game plan. The second was supposed to be exploiting the remainder of Ohio State’s smallish, slowish bigs with the normally outstanding frontcourt quartet of Green, junior center Roy Hibbert and athletic wings Patrick Ewing Jr. and DaJuan Summers.

Hibbert, who had 19 points and six rebounds, did his part, actually outplaying Oden (13 points, nine rebounds) before encountering foul troubles of his own after intermission. But Green, Summers and Ewing looked nothing like the trio that punished North Carolina for 44 points in last week’s East Region final.

The three combined for just 12 points on 17 shots while uncharacteristically committing eight turnovers. Summers (1-for-10) was the most out of sorts, but perhaps that was somewhat predictable from an awestruck freshman. Ewing had been erratic for his entire career before becoming more consistent down the stretch for the Hoyas this season. But nobody could have predicted Green’s virtual nonfactor performance in the biggest game of his career.

Last night, he not only failed to carry Georgetown to a cushion with Oden on the bench throughout the first half, he scored just four points after intermission, deferring to lesser defenders and teammates at almost every opportunity.

In spite of Green’s lack of assertion, the Hoyas tied the game 44-44 on a 3-pointer from junior point guard Jonathan Wallace (19 points) with 9:42 remaining. But just when it seemed the Hoyas were going to win behind Wallace and Hibbert in spite of Green’s struggles, 14 turnovers and horrific transition defense, Hibbert picked up his fourth foul trying to keep Ohio State’s Othello Hunter from tracking down a long rebound.

Hibbert’s exit to the bench coincided unfortunately with Oden’s return to Ohio State’s lineup. Behind a couple of offensive bursts from Oden and consecutive Georgetown turnovers leading to transition buckets for the Buckeyes, Ohio State immediately surged ahead 51-44 with 6:37 remaining.

With the clock ticking on its revival season and Hibbert on the bench, Georgetown needed Green, but during the game’s critical closing stretch he was twice stripped by Conley, missed a point blank jumper along the baseline and bowled over an Ohio State defender to draw a no-brainer charge. That stretch marked his only real attempt at asserting himself all game. But after more than 30 minutes of dispassionate play, there was no feel or rhythm to his game in the crucible.

“We were pleased with the way he wanted to play that game,” Conley said of Green’s passive play. “He could have taken over the game any time at any point. I think it’s a credit to the way we played defense and the way we had our game plan focused around him.”

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