Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Big Men Stand Tall Heading Into Clash of Titans

The headliners in Saturday night’s fight for a national championship berth between Georgetown and Ohio State will be two heavyweights who stand head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.

Fans in the Georgia Dome will watch as Georgetown’s 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert and Ohio State’s 7-foot Greg Oden spend 40 minutes battling each other for supremacy in the paint – that is, if the tall twosome can stay out of foul trouble. Both centers have had to sit out significant portions of tournament games due to foul trouble.

Oden picked up four personals in each of the Buckeyes’ wins this past weekend and fouled out of Ohio State’s comeback win over Xavier to get into the Sweet 16. Hibbert was hampered by four fouls in the Hoyas’ Elite Eight victory over North Carolina and exited early in Georgetown’s Sweet 16 win after committing his fifth foul with four minutes remaining. If the officials allow the Big East and Big Ten champions to play the tough, bruising styles their leagues are known for and allow the big men to stay on the floor, however, the fans will be in for a treat. “It’s going to be a big challenge. He’s a great player,” Oden said. “We are similar players. We both play really strong and block a lot of shots. It’s going to be difficult for sure.”

Hibbert echoed Oden’s sentiments.

“Everyone’s saying it’s a clash of the Titans,” he said.

Oden, a first-team all-American, averages 15.6 points per game to lead Ohio State, while Hibbert, a member of the Big East first team, is second on the Hoyas with 12.7 points per contest. Though both can light up the scoreboard with effortless dunks, they are perhaps more important to their respective teams on the defensive end.

Oden hauls in 9.5 rebounds per game and averages 3.3 blocks per game, while Hibbert collects 6.9 rebounds and swats 2.5 shots per contest. Just the mere presence of the two 7-footers in the lane can affect an opponent’s offensive attack.

Hibbert’s lanky wingspan affects most shots near the paint and is a reason why the Hoyas’ field goal defense was ranked fifth in the nation during the regular season.

Georgetown holds opponents to a .382 field goal percentage. Many teams in the Big Ten had two offensive game plans this year: one for when Oden is playing and one for when he is on the bench.

Ohio State’s defense ranks 20th in the nation in field goal percentage as the Buckeyes hold opponents to a .399 shooting percentage from the field. Both centers shoot well from the field themselves – Hibbert connects on 67 percent while Oden nets 63.6 percent from the field.

If the Hoyas send Oden to the free throw line Saturday night, he will probably not hurt them as much as North Carolina big man Tyler Hansbrough did last Sunday. Oden sat out the first seven games of the season following surgery on his right wrist and has had to use his off-hand to shoot free throws for a majority of the season.

He is back to shooting with his right hand from the charity stripe but is shooting just 61.6 percent on the season and 65.5 percent in the tournament.

Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta was impressed with Hibbert when the Hoyas downed the Buckeyes in last year’s tournament.

“With [Roy] Hibbert we saw a great side of him last year at the NCAA tournament. His size and athleticism is what we picked up last year and the fact that he has a great understanding of how to play basketball,” Matta said.

Although one of the biggest differences between the two stars is their experience – Hibbert is a junior and Oden is just a freshman – it should not be a factor as the two square off under the brightest lights of the college basketball stage.

Not only does Oden look like a 40-year-old bearded veteran, but he has the experience to back it up. Oden led his high school, Lawrence North, to three consecutive Indiana state titles and would have likely been the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA draft had a rule change not prevented high school players from making the jump to the NBA.

Hibbert, on the other hand, was much less touted when he came to the Hilltop three years ago. Many today believe he has yet to reach his potential and would see his draft stock soar with another year of tutelage under John Thompson III. When the dust settles Saturday in Atlanta, the team that comes out on top will likely be the one that best holds its opponent’s big man in check.

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