Buckeyes Show Toughness Down Stretch

When its back to the wall, it seemed like Ohio State was done for. Trailing by seven in the final minutes against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes responded by closing out the game on a 14-3 run and advancing to the next round of the Big Ten Tournament.

INDIANAPOLIA -- Not even Thad Matta knew his Ohio State team had this in it.

Fighting for their tournament lives in a quarterfinal matchup in the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes surrendered a one-point lead and gave up an 8-0 run to Wisconsin and faced their largest deficit of the game with 6:01 remaining.

Just when they looked dead in the water, though, sophomore Jon Diebler grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the court. Junior P.J. Hill drew a foul on a drive to the basket, went to the line and connected on a pair of free throws.

Those two baskets from the charity stripe were the beginning of what would become a 14-3 game-closing run that saw the fifth-seeded Buckeyes advance to the third day of the conference tournament.

"The one thing this league has taught me (is) you can't take anything for granted," Matta said. "You can't take a lead for granted; you can't take if you're down for granted. I think to our guys' credit, they hung with it."

When Wisconsin opened up a 54-47 lead with 6:01 remaining, the basket was the final field goal the Badgers would record. Wisconsin was 0 for 7 from the floor the rest of the way.

On the other end of the court, the Buckeyes primarily put the ball in the hands of their primary playmaker in Evan Turner. He had the next four points after Hill's free throws, but it was Diebler who would hit the biggest shot of the game.

Trailing by two with less than two minutes left, Diebler hit on a contested three-pointer on the left wing to put the Buckeyes ahead. Having been trailed all game long by Wisconsin's Jason Bohannon, Diebler had a tiny opening for the shot – and it was thanks to Turner.

"When I came off a screen they didn't like to switch," Diebler said. "It was a slip screen. Evan made a great read with how aggressive he was the last four or five possessions. That's what I really think set it up because the defense got mixed up to whether they should go with me or Evan. It was a great play call and Evan put the ball right on the money."

Turner acknowledged that he had set up the play but gave the credit to his classmate.

"I just think me driving drew a lot of attention already so they were worried about me driving once again and getting into the paint," he said. "When I was getting ready to set up I saw Jon cut and I threw it to him. I might have set it up, but he finished it off."

The basket put the Buckeyes ahead 55-54, and although Wisconsin would tie it on a free throw from Marcus Landry they would never trail again.

For that, OSU has sophomore center Dallas Lauderdale to thank as well. The Buckeyes went to Turner on their next possession but his jumper fell short. Surrounded by Badgers in the paint, Lauderdale elevated for the offensive rebound – his second of the game – and helped the Buckeyes maintain possession.

Given another chance, Turner spun through the lane and connected, making it a 57-55 game with 52.2 seconds remaining. From there, four OSU free throws and two from the Badgers would set the final score.

It was a game-closing run that seemed nearly improbable given how inconsistent the Buckeyes have been throughout the season. Lauderdale pointed to one key reason as to why that was the Buckeyes were up to the task on this night.

"We don't want to go home," he said. "We don't want to get back on that bus and have that three-hour ride home without going home with a ring. We had to do something to keep us here."

Diebler said the win was a response to some criticism of the team's toughness in the back half of the regular season.

"It's very satisfying," he said. "A lot of us haven't been through these kind of wars. To see the development that we made through the regular season into tonight feels good. We have been working hard and we've heard a lot about our toughness. People have been questioning our toughness and tonight was a step in the right direction."

Now the next step will be against top-seeded Michigan State, a team that solidly beat the Buckeyes twice this season.

"Michigan State has great depth," Matta said. "They've got great experience. We've got to get our guys rested. I don't even know what time we play, but I'll be here."


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