Champs Again: Buckeyes Capture Crown

Ohio State entered the Big Ten tournament as the top seed after winning the conference regular season crown outright. Today, the Buckeyes added a new piece of hardware to the trophy case in Columbus as they brought home the tournament crown as well. Updated with video of Buckeyes accepting trophy.

With a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament already all but assured, Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger was asked if his team had anything to play for in the Big Ten tournament.

"We want another trophy in our facility," he said March 11 after a quarterfinal win against Northwestern. "Right now it's that Big Ten tournament trophy."

Mission accomplished for the Buckeyes, who pulled away in the second half against a tired Penn State team for a 71-60 victory.

OSU (32-2) was playing its third game in as many days, one of which went to overtime. Penn State (19-14), which was the sixth seed in the tournament, won three straight to earn the right to face the Buckeyes in the title game.

Also the outright Big Ten champion this season, OSU took control in the second half. A six-point lead at the break turned into 11 with a 7-2 run to start the stanza, and after the teams traded baskets twice the Buckeyes blew it open with a pair of three-pointers.

First came one from Buford and then one from Craft, the latter of which forced the Nittany Lions to call a timeout and made it 46-29 with 12:59 remaining.

For all intents and purposes, it was over from there. To see a video of the Buckeyes accepting the trophy, click here.

For the Buckeyes, it marked their seventh appearance in the Big Ten title game and fifth in six years, having won three of their previous six attempts. PSU was playing on the final day of the tournament for the first time in school history, as was Minnesota when the Buckeyes won the crown last season.

After the Nittany Lions cut OSU's lead to one point, the Buckeyes grabbed momentum and closed the half with style. A pair of free throws from Jermaine Marshall with 3:58 remaining made it 22-21 in favor of the league's top seed and capped a 6-0 run during which the Buckeyes missed four shots and turned the ball over four times.

But as they have done so many times this season, the Buckeyes used their defense to spark their offense. A Dallas Lauderdale block of Marshall with the shot clock at less than five seconds allowed OSU to push the ball up the court, and it was senior guard Jon Diebler who knifed to the basket from the right wing for a layup that got the crowd roaring.

With Sullinger clapping his hands above his head as he settled into a defensive stance, the Buckeyes again turned up their defense. Senior guard Talor Battle was forced to take an off-balance, fade-away jumper with OSU's Aaron Craft draped all over him that did not fall.

Sullinger would miss the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity at the other end, but the Buckeyes would force a shot-clock violation to get the momentum back on their side, and a mid-range jumper from junior guard William Buford increased the lead to 26-21 with less than a minute remaining.

Battle would draw a foul and hit two free throws with 8.9 seconds left, but Craft quickly pushed the ball up the left side of the court and found Diebler cutting toward the top of the circle from the corner. After receiving the handoff with the clock ticking under five seconds, Diebler saw PSU's Andrew Jones – a 6-10 senior forward – waiting for him at the top of the circle.

Abruptly changing course, he cut back to his left and found the 6-0 Battle in his face. As the final second came up on the clock, he fired an off-balance shot that was more a heave than anything else. It found nothing but net as the buzzer sounded, giving the Buckeyes a 29-23 lead.

The flurry at the end of the half partially masked a rough shooting performance from both teams. OSU went 10 for 26 (38.5 percent) from the field while the Nittany Lions were 8 for 25 (32.0).

Battle led the way early for his team, scoring his team's first eight points. He finished with a game-high 24 in the losing effort.

Sullinger finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, becoming the first player to record three double-doubles in the same Big Ten tournament. Buford had 18 points while Diebler added 15.

In three games, Sullinger finished with 49 points and 42 rebounds.


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