Hawks Grab Big Ten Tournament Crown

After years of disappointment, Iowa Seniors Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner finally got their championship. The Hawkeyes used a late run to knock off top-seeded Ohio State 67-60 in the Big Ten Tournament Championship Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS - As the final seconds clicked off the Canseco Fieldhouse clock, Greg Brunner ran to the Iowa bench arms raised and an absolute look of joy painted his face. The senior was looking for somebody, anybody to hug. The problem was that all his Hawkeye teammates there were sprinting onto the court for a celebration.

Give Iowa's senior a pass for his confusion. When you dream your whole life about being a Hawkeye and then lead that program to a championship, you get some leeway. Heck, you can forget your name.

"I don't know where I was going," Brunner said with grand smile. "I got there and said, "Oh crap, there are people on the court." I ran back on the court, found Jeff (Horner) and held him up. It was just huge jubilation."

Those scenes unfolded all over the court here following Iowa's 67-60 victory in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game here on Sunday. A group of seniors and a school overcame distraction after distraction, scraping rock bottom last February following the dismissal of Pierre Pierce. They picked themselves off of the deck and raised a trophy a March later.

"It finally feels like we got what we deserved," Horner said.

Brunner, who played at less than 100 percent this weekend after spraining an ankle, leaned on the past to find motivation for the future.

"I just think about what it was like our first two years when we weren't making runs like this," Brunner said.

The leaders led Saturday. Brunner, tournament MVP Jeff Horner, and Adam Haluska combined for 41 of the Hawks' 67 points. But the role players like Alex Thompson and Tony Freeman stepped up with big plays. Thompson replaced a foul-plagued Brunner late in the contest, handing out an assist, grabbing a rebound and knocking down a huge triple with ice in his veins.

"I just wanted to go in there and help the team," Thompson said. "I wasn't even thinking about a shot. It just happened."

Top-seeded Ohio State controlled most of the game, leading by nine twice in the first half and by six with 9 minutes to play in the game. But the Buckeyes could not put No. 2 Iowa away. The Hawkeyes, time and time again, battled back.

"We just weren't going to roll over," Iowa Center Erek Hansen said.

Iowa tied the game at 57-57 with just less than five minutes to play on a Hansen tip-in. The Hawkeyes grabbed the lead 30 seconds later when Thompson found Horner for a lay-up. It was their first lead since 12-10.

After a steal by Hansen, Thompson found himself on the right wing all alone with the ball. He hesitated only slightly before calmly draining the trey, giving the underdogs a 62-57 lead with 4:26 to play.

Horner followed with a short jumper and the Hawkeyes salted away the game with another strong stretch at the foul line. Ohio State looked defeated when Iowa hit them with the counter punch with four minutes left in the game.

"You could kind of see it," Iowa Point Guard Mike Henderson said. "I don't think they expected us to have that last push."

As time ran out, the large contingent of Hawkeye fans starting chanting, "Big Ten Champs." Associate Head Coach Craig Neal turned around and pumped his fist in the air at Sam Alford in the stands.

Iowa celebrated with Billy Packer and Jim Nance.

"Nothing against CBS but I hope we miss (the NCAA Tournament Selection Show) because we're still celebrating cutting down the nets and somebody tells us where we're going," Iowa Coach Steve Alford said.

Packer asked to see Thompson.

"That was weird," Thompson said.

Horner stepped up to cut the final part of the net down, waving it in the air to the chants of "MVP. MVP."

He and his Hawkeye teammates had what they deserved.

TIP-INS: Iowa's first basket came on a strong Hansen dunk over Dials that drew a "ahh" from the crowd…Coach Alford pulled Brunner shortly after his senior tossed up an ill-advised trey. When Brunner came to the bench, the coach said to him "you're spending to much time on the perimeter. You need to go to your strength. That's inside."…Dials picked up his second foul at the 12:17 mark of the first half when he was whistled for a charge for running over Thomas. He sat the rest of the half…Coach Alford brought Horner to the bench for his first rest of the tournament at the 10:04 mark of the first half. The senior guard visibly was disappointed when Mike Henderson told him he was being replaced. He sat for a minute and a half of game clock…Although he missed his first six shots and made just one of seven in the first half, Jeff Horner hit a big bucket to close the opening 20 minutes and handed out seven assists with just one turnover before the break…Ohio State shot 78 percent from 2-point range in the first half but just 25 (4-16) from beyond the arc…After falling behind 6-1 on the boards, Iowa bounced back for a 20-14 halftime advantage on the backboards…Coach Alford yanked Henderson out of the game after Butler's three at 16:58. The coach was upset that his junior guard slipped under a screen instead of over it, allowing the open look. He screamed this explanation at Henderson on the bench and proceeded to throw his clipboard onto the ground at its conclusion…Hansen picked up his third foul at the 15:50 mark…Iowa briefly switched to a 2-3 zone out of the 11:01 media timeout…Dials picked up his third foul at the 10:07 mark…A priceless exchange took place between Coach Alford and veteran official Ted Hillary late in regulation. The Iowa bench was hollering that a foul was in the act of shooting, which it obviously wasn't…Hillary started saying, "Steven. Steven. Steven." as Alford argued. Alford finally blurted out, "I love you" to which Hillary said, "I love you."…After Brunner picked up his fourth foul with just over four minutes, Alford replaced him with Thompson, who grabbed a big rebound, handed out an assist and knocked down a trey…Iowa shot 47.3 percent for the game and held the Buckeyes to 30.4 in the second half and to five points in the game's last six and a half minutes…The Hawkeyes' 62.3 PPG were the best in the tournament…Horner handed out 10 assists in the game.


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