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|Photos: Havlicek (AP), Lucas (AP), Jackson (Ohio State)|
|Scoop Jackson predicts ...|
"NC" is how this game is tagged in the Albuquerque Tribune: No Centers. Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson looks across the floor at Ohio State's John Havlicek and whispers to Jack Twyman, "He has the lowest scoring average on the team, but he's their best player." At this point the game was tied at 20 with 7:35 left in the fist half. Both teams are making several uncharacteristic turnovers, but none due to sloppiness. Jerry Lucas is making it impossible for Martin or Fortson to be effective in the paint.
In the second half, as Robertson predicted, the quiet Havlicek begins to make noise. In one four-minute stretch he scores eight points, all running jump shots off the glass. Michael Redd drains a 3 with 48 seconds left to give Ohio State a five-point lead. And although Robertson begs for the ball in the last minute, it is Van Exel who takes the Bearcats' last two shots. Both miss.
Final score: Ohio State 77, Cincinnati 73
|G||Nick Van Exel||6-1||92-93||15.3|
|Photos: Robertson (AP), Exel (Getty), Martin (Getty)|
|Eric Neel predicts ...|
I don't want to disrespect anyone, I truly don't. Ohio State has some very nice players, some excellent players. Jerry Lucas is a horse. Beyond him, they're balanced, they're deep, and they also have the almost incalculable mojo of Dennis Hopson's Malcolm-Jamal Warner fade. They clearly are not to be trifled with.
But here's the thing: The Big O suits up for Cincy. Even if everything else goes wrong, even if Kenyon Martin and Danny Fortson both get ejected in this game, and even if Nick the Quick decides he just won't feed Jack Twyman no matter how open the guy gets, Oscar Robertson is still Oscar Robertson. And Oscar Robertson isn't going out in the first round of this tournament. It wouldn't be right. The basketball gods won't let it happen.
Final score: Cincinnati 76, Ohio State 74