Cagers Closing In On Title

No. 2 Ohio State continues Big Ten play this afternoon with a home contest against Indiana. Depending on the outcome of a game in East Lansing, the Buckeyes could capture at least a share of the Big Ten title.

About two months late, David Lighty is hoping to put the finishing touches on his Grinch impression.

With a little help, Ohio State could clinch at least a share of the Big Ten crown today. The Buckeyes head into an afternoon contest with bottom-dweller Indiana with a one-game lead on second-place Purdue. The Boilermakers tip at 1 p.m. on the road against Michigan State, a team that is 11-2 at home and 6-1 in Big Ten play.

A Purdue loss and an OSU win would give the Buckeyes a two-game lead with two games to play. In other words, they would clinch at least a share of the title.

That is not quite good enough for Lighty, a fifth-year senior.

"I don't like to share," he said.

While a national championship is always a goal, head coach Thad Matta talks about his desire to capture a Big Ten title first. A single bad matchup can run a team out of the NCAA Tournament, he points out, while running the table through the conference requires a higher level of play for a sustained period of time.

Matta said he would not point out the fact that a shot at the title will be on line today should the Boilermakers go down before his team takes the court.

"I'm sure they will (know)," he said. "You guys (the media) help educate these guys."

That much was true on this occasion. Lighty and fellow senior Jon Diebler came out for interviews after their coach, and neither said he was aware of the chance to clinch the Big Ten title.

"I know now, I guess," Lighty said. "We're just trying to beat Indiana and see what happens there and then try to get two more wins."

The Buckeyes have won at least a share of the Big Ten title in three of the last five years, but their last outright title came in the 2006-07 season. OSU shared it with Purdue and MSU last seaon.

The Hoosiers are tied for last in the conference with Iowa with a 3-12 record. Head coach Tom Crean said this game is a chance for his players to put a stamp on a difficult season.

"First and foremost, this is another great opportunity for our players and coaches," he said. "We get to play on CBS on a Sunday afternoon against one of the top teams in the country. We will have to play mistake-free and make the most of our opportunities on offense. We have to move the ball, make the extra pass and take the best shot possible each time down the floor."

Not that he expects it to be easy, however.

"Ohio State is different because of how much talent they have and there are multi-dimensional," he said. "These guys can beat you from three, they can beat you from the pull-up game, they can beat you at the rim and you've got to get up and you've got to establish more will and grit and resolve to that."

But whether a title is on the line or not when the ball tips at 4 p.m. will not change Diebler's thoughts.

"We want to win it outright," he said. "That's the plan."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories