Top Recruits Like Greg Oden Show They're Prime-Time Players

After his past two nationally televised games, Greg Oden admitted to being a little nervous at the start, in part because of the disruption such a situation causes. Previously, he was ushered through television interviews the afternoon of a game, sitting in front of a bank of lights with reporters he didn't know and technicians running to and fro.

Prior to Thursday's game at North Central telecast on ESPN2, there was none of that. And there was no stopping Greg Oden.

With a dozen family members in attendance from his hometown of Buffalo , N.Y. , the 7-foot center scored 23 of his game-high 33 points in the first half as Lawrence North built a huge lead and held off the Panthers 78-59 in front of a frenzied, sold-out crowd at the 3,200-seat North Central gymnasium.

In the best of his three national television appearances, Greg Oden also had 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists. He shot 13-for-18 from the field and 7-for-8 from the line. He hit a jumper and a mini-hook on a spin move, but most of the time he was able to get position on the low block for layups and dunks.

"My teammates were getting me the ball," Greg Oden said. "They did a great job of taking their man's pressure off me and that got me one on one. When I'm one on one, the coaches ask for me to shoot the ball."

The two-time defending Class 4A state champions also got 18 points from senior point guard Mike Conley.

Illinois-bound North Central junior guard Eric Gordon scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half. In his first game on national television, Gordon shot 10-for-25 from the field, including 2-for-9 from 3-point range. He was 2-for-11 in the first half as North Central fell behind 38-19. He did have a spectacular blocked shot of an alley-oop to Brandon McDonald.

With three of the nation's top-ranked players on the court in Greg Oden, Conley and Gordon, the game drew plenty of famous faces.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who gets Greg Oden and Conley next year, and Illinois coach Bruce Weber were part of a crowd that also included five members of the Colts -- Tarik Glenn, David Thornton, Larry Tripplett, Aaron Moorehead and Troy Walters.

Oden's father, Greg Sr., and the rest of his family contingent from Buffalo sported baseball caps they had made with "Oden 50" in Lawrence North colors.

Gordon spent most of the night being chased by McDonald, a 6-2 guard.

"Brandon McDonald doesn't get as much credit as he should," Greg Oden said.

"He played great defense. (Gordon's) a great player, and he's going to get his. But Brandon was out there chasing him, and in the first half you had great help. I give Brandon all the credit for this game."

Greg Oden was unstoppable in the first half with 23 points on 9-for-10 shooting and 11 rebounds.

The top-ranked Wildcats, who improved to 14-0 and pushed their winning streak to 30 games, led by as many as 23 points early in the third quarter. No North Central player other than Gordon scored more than seven points.

"We knew that defense was going to control the game," Conley said.

"We knew if we played good defense, the offense would take care of itself."

Behind Gordon, who also guarded Conley in the second half, Class 4A No. 6 North Central (11-3) went on a furious rally, getting within 58-49 a minute into the fourth quarter. Gordon had 13 points in the third quarter and hit 5-of-6 shots during one stretch, but the Panthers suffered the same fate as Saturday, an 80-66 defeat to Lawrence North in the final of the Marion County Tournament.

"We just got so far behind," Gordon said. "We had a little run in the second half, but it's tough to come back on a team like that. It's hard to score inside with Greg in the paint. We lacked intensity at the start, and that hurt us."