Ron Lewis, Greg Oden and Buckeyes recall epic NCAA Tournament win against Xavier
The audio of the shot lives on in Ohio State men's basketball history – and in the nightmares of Xavier fans.
On March 17, 2007, No. 1 seed Ohio State needed a last-second shot from Ron Lewis to stave off a second-round NCAA Tournament exit at the hands of No. 9 seed Xavier in a game played at the University of Kentucky's Rupp Arena. Lewis' 3-pointer tied the game at 62 as CBS commentator Gus Johnson exclaimed, "And, we're goin' to overtime! In Lexington! Ha-ha!"
That entire 2006-07 Ohio State season, which ended with a loss to Florida in the national championship game, has been recalled with a series of oral history stories featuring interviews with coach Thad Matta and multiple key players. Due to an ongoing online archive update, the original piece is not currently available online.
Here's the full oral history piece on that Ohio State win against Xavier, originally published March 23, 2017. It has not been altered in any form.
Ohio State enters NCAA Tournament feeling slighted
Ron Lewis, senior guard: It was a lot of excitement. We had a good team, expectations were high and we still had to prove ourselves. I remember exactly that we didn’t get the overall No. 1 seed. I think we got second, because of Florida, so we were still trying to prove ourselves. Really everybody was excited.
Greg Oden, freshman center: I didn't understand how we ended the season ranked No. 1 but didn't get the all-out No. 1 seed for the tournament.
Mark Titus, freshman walk-on: Honestly, I think a lot of us were surprised that we didn’t get the overall No. 1. Obviously they proved to be the better team and maybe the committee knew what they were talking about but I think a lot of us in that moment thought we deserved the No. 1 overall because we just beat the brakes off of Wisconsin, which was a top-five team. We felt like we had done enough to get an overall No. 1 seed.
Danny Peters, freshman walk-on: I didn’t have that huge of a role and wasn’t that good of a player and I’m still not to this day, but you sit in that room (on Selection Sunday) and watch those guys around you, you have a sense of confidence in those guys you’re with in terms of how we’re going to do things and how we play and our ability. We felt like the world was ours at times. It kind of felt disappointed and angry that we didn’t get the overall No. 1 seed. I felt like, we earned that outright. We beat Wisconsin at home, we just swept through the Big Ten tournament and when you perform to that level it’s kind of exciting.
Lewis: My brother used to always tell me, ‘Don’t let ‘em lose, Lew. Whatever you do, don’t let ‘em lose.’ There were only four of us that had any experience at (the NCAA Tournament). I really took it upon myself to be like, ‘I’m going to set the tone, just let everybody know there’s no playing games in this. One and done. You have a bad game, it’s over for you.’
Riding a 17-game winning streak, the Buckeyes took their 30-3 record into a first-round game against No. 16 seed Central Connecticut State inside the University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena. Ohio State won handily, 78-57, after opening with a 17-3 lead.
Oden: We knew their mascot was the Blue Devils. Coach made sure we respected them.
Lewis: I just know we went through our regular routine of scouting and going over their plays and knowing their players. We knew it wasn’t going to be the same caliber type of game, but anybody that makes the tournament is fair game. They’re in there for a reason. We knew it wasn’t going to be the same caliber, but we knew we had to come to play to set the tone.
Peters and Titus got to play during the final minute, and Peters was credited with a turnover that remains controversial to this day.
Peters: I remember specifically coming into that game, the guys from Central Connecticut that they brought in off the bench. They saw me and their eyes lit up and they were like, ‘Feast. I’m going to get a steal and a dunk in the NCAA Tournament.’ They came in and they were jawing a little bit, saying some things, just the competitiveness of college basketball. I wasn’t the greatest athlete and I needed some warm-up before I got to running around out there full-speed with these athletes that were ready to eat me alive.
Matt Terwilliger, junior center: Danny Joe Peters has been one of my best friends since we were 13 years old. He got in the game and he got just past half-court and threw a lob towards the end of the game. I think he threw it to Ivan (Harris), and Ivan didn’t jump so it just hit the bottom of the backboard and went out of bounds. We just got on him like, ‘Danny, that was one of the most horrible passes in the history of Ohio State basketball. What are you doing? You just got in the game.’ We rode him pretty hard for that pass when in reality I think it was probably a pretty good lob, Ivan just didn’t jump.
Peters: Ivan did point to the sky. I want you to know that. He will deny that to this day, but I have the film and if I can break down the film to you I promise he pointed to the sky and said, ‘Lob, lob, lob.’ As only Ivan could do, he would ask for something that he was not yet ready to receive and messed up the whole situation to the point now where Mark says to me, ‘Danny, make sure your feet are set.’
Stage set for in-state showdown with Xavier
Xavier advanced, setting up a showdown between in-state rivals that also pitted Matta against the program he had left three years prior.
Terwilliger: For me, and I would hope that some of the other guys felt the same way, it was, ‘We’ve got to find a way to make sure that coach Matta wins this game. We want to win, because we are competitors, but we’ve got to make sure coach Matta beats Xavier.’ He’d just come from there. Plus there’s always that chip on the shoulder on the other teams in Ohio, at least at that time, because there was the perception that Ohio State wouldn’t play anybody.
Lewis: They were tough because all five guys could shoot. They were picking and popping and we weren’t used to that. With Greg, he can get out there but it’s not normal for him to guard those types of players. They also had Justin Cage, who was playing the 4, and he’s an undersized 6-6 playing the 4 or 5 and it’s tough to guard those types of players. It was a thing we had to adjust to.
Titus: The goal was the Final Four. It might have been why we had the close game with Xavier, because we were looking too far ahead. For us, arrogance, confidence, whatever you call it, we felt we were assured of getting into the Elite Eight at least and probably should be a Final Four team. ‘We might have a decent game in the Elite Eight, but we’ll win that handily as well.’
What happened next was the stuff of legends. Ron Lewis’ shot in the final seconds sent it to overtime, where Mike Conley Jr. took over to lead a 78-71 win. But before Lewis’ shot came Oden fouling out of the game with 9.3 seconds left and sending the Musketeers to the line to shoot two free throws while holding a two-point lead.
Oden: Yeah, after I made that foul all I thought was, ‘This year's over, and I might get a spring break.’
Lewis: I just knew he (Cage) was gonna miss. I don’t know how or whatever. I told Mike at the free-throw line after his first free throw, ‘Give me the ball.’ After that, they got the rebound, he got the ball, I was looking to get open to get it and I knew he was trying to find someone, trying to make a play. We’ve done it before in the Tennessee game where he handed off to me before for a shot. It just so happened to work the same way where he’s penetrating across the three-point line and I’m coming across for the handoff. At that moment I’m like, ‘I’ve gotta shoot it.’ I look, take one dribble and I’m like, ‘I’ve gotta shoot it for game.’ It leaves my hand and in the air I’m thinking form, thinking about the rules, and I shoot it and I’m like, ‘This is good.’ *laughs*
Terwilliger: I remember as soon as Ron got to that spot on the floor and he went up to shoot I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is in.’ I’ve seen him make this 30 times a day in practice. He’s getting to that spot in motion, in his rhythm shooting motion with the run he was having. He was playing well in the Big Ten tournament. That was one of those things where you’ve got the feeling as the play was unfolding that you knew what was about to happen here.
Oden: My head was still down in disbelief that the season was still over and (then) everyone's jumping up and down and I’m like, ‘Wait, it's not over?’
Peters: Maybe if he doesn’t make that, Mike Conley comes back as a sophomore and we don’t go to the NIT and things change a little bit and coach Matta has a little more success maybe that next year or third year. Mike Conley got drafted because of what he did in overtime. He screwed our program for two years – and that’s all in sarcasm, but at the same time it’s what made him special. Kudos to him for being able to perform on that stage with that pressure and the mentality that went into it with the game on the line and how our team had been playing up until that. Mike started his legacy of who he became on a national stage.
Lewis: That sticks with me all the time. Every time around this time (in spring), everybody, a lot of people will tweet me and say, ‘I still remember where I was at when you hit that shot.’ That puts a smile on my face and brings back all the memories of the times we had. Hitting that shot, it never gets old to me. My son can do it (Gus Johnson’s call of the play from the broadcast), too. The whole call. He knows it. It never gets old to me. Coming back from where we were down, they thought they had the game won, it was great.
The emotions were, ‘I’m not going out like that.’ I felt like that was my, not coming out but showing that I was ready for that moment. That was my feeling: I’m ready, I’m supposed to be here and I’m ready for this moment. Not a coming-out party or anything like that, just ready for the moment, I can live in the moment and be that type of player.