Big East POY Green struggles in Final Four loss

Updated: March 31, 2007, 10:03 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The No. 1 reason Jeff Green could use another year in college was on display in the Final Four.

Even though he's the best player on his team, he still doesn't know when his team needs him to take over.

The Big East player of the year was hard to find Saturday night in the Georgia Dome, scoring only nine points on five shots in Georgetown's 67-60 loss to Ohio State in the national semifinals. Green is a team player who lets the game come to him, but this time it never did -- and his team suffered as a result.

"I didn't want to force anything," Green said, "so I just took what they gave me."

But all they gave him were four happenstance baskets -- all coming off broken plays or long rebounds and never in the regular flow of the offense. Officially, his first shot in the first half came with 3:16 remaining. His first shot in the second half came with 6:10 left.

The five shots were the fewest Green has taken in 23 games, and he had scored in double figures in 17 of his last 18 games.

Coach John Thompson III likes to say that Green can dominate a game without scoring, and Green likes to say his favorite stat is the assist, but even those were few and far between. Green had only three -- none in the first half. He did tie a career high with 12 rebounds, but those came mainly because 7-foot-2 teammate Roy Hibbert spent much of the game on the bench in foul trouble.

Green's minimal impact was even more remarkable given he played nearly the entire game, leaving for a sub only in the final seconds.

"I trust Jeff Green's instincts," Thompson said. "He made the decisions when to pass it out, when to shoot. Jeff Green usually makes the right decision. The kid is an extremely intelligent player. We put the ball in his hands and he decided not to shoot. As I said, I'll live and die with Jeff Green's ability to make decisions."

Throughout the postseason, Green had asserted himself late in the game when necessary, but his efforts against the Buckeyes were too little too late. He spent an entire possession trying to post up Buckeyes reserve David Lighty -- who at 6-foot-5 is 4 inches shorter than Green -- but Green never touched the ball and the Hoyas were nearly whistled for a shot clock violation.

Later, Green missed a forced turnaround hook on the baseline. He was then called for a charge while attempting a baseline drive with 2 minutes to go and the Hoyas trailing by four. Ohio State scored the next five points to take command.

"I played OK. I'm not going to sit here and say I played bad or good," Green said. "I could've done more things on both ends of the court. I tried to be assertive, but you've got to credit their defense. They made it very hard for us."

Green came in averaging 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists, and his all-around game would make him a certain NBA lottery pick if he were to declare early for the draft. He has maintained all along that he wants a degree from Georgetown, but he hedged somewhat when asked about his future following the game.

"When the time comes for me to make a decision, that's what I'll think about," Green said. "But right now, we're just coming off a tough loss."

Green did say that the Hoyas' prospects for next season will influence him "a lot." Everybody who played Saturday was an underclassman.

"We have a great team, so that'll be in my decision," he said.

Green's only attempt at the basket in the first 16 minutes didn't even count as an official shot because Hibbert was call for offensive goaltending for touching the ball in the cylinder. Overall, Georgetown's ball movement was slow and too methodical -- bad news for a team trying to run a Princeton offense -- and the 23 first-half points were the fewest by the Hoyas at the break this season.

Georgetown committed 17 turnovers, and the Hoyas didn't have a backdoor layup -- their signature play -- until the second half. There wasn't a single point all night from the bench, and Hibbert's foul trouble only served to compound the effect of Green's disappearing act.

Even so, merely making the Final Four was quite an achievement for Georgetown, a program that was sinking fast until Thompson was hired three years ago.

"Before I came here, they weren't capable of making it this far," Green said. "We did it in three years. It's a bad feeling to lose, but you got to appreciate the positives."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press