When the final seconds ticked off the clock, it simply read Ohio State 73, Illinois 57.
The Buckeyes (24-7, 14-4 Big Ten) withstood a first half of runs and pulled away from the Fighting Illini (18-11, 10-7) in the second half, clinching at least a share of their 18th Big Ten title and their third in the past five years.
Junior guard Evan Turner entered the postgame interview room hosting the championship trophy, telling reporters he wanted to bring it because he figured they had not seen it in a while.
"It felt like you could finally live out one of those moments that they show you when you get recruited here," Turner said. "They show you video of everybody on the floor celebrating, all happy. That was cool. On ESPN we always see everybody rush the court. Dallas and I were talking: 'Man, nobody every rushes the court here.' We said we'd have to give them a reason to rush the court."
OSU will now have to sit and wait to see if it can hoist the trophy alone. The Buckeyes have their lone open week in conference play this weekend and will be watching to see how the likes of Purdue and Michigan State fare.
They did it despite a rough night from the floor for Turner, whose rapid recovery from two broken vertebrae in his back helped get them recover from a 1-3 start in conference play. This time, it was two other juniors in Jon Diebler and David Lighty who carried the mail for the Buckeyes.
Diebler had 15 of his game-high 21 points while hitting on three first-half three-pointers, while Lighty had 10 of his 15 points in the second half – all of which came after the Illini pulled to within 43-40 with 16:44 left and all of which came on slashing drives to the basket.
From there, the Buckeyes outscored Illinois by a 30-17 mark to run away with it.
After the game, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said Lighty was the one matchup they had no answer for.
"(Turner) wasn't the one who hurt us," he said. "It was Lighty. We don't have a great matchup with that. If our (power forward) could post up, we could take advantage and go inside but that's not their game. They can use their athleticism and get to the basket and they have so many weapons." From there, the Buckeyes outscored Illinois by a 30-17 mark to run away with it.
"The coaches were telling me to drive and attack and keep staying aggressive," Lighty said. "If we're not aggressive, then we'll keep going back and forth trading baskets. I just tried to be as aggressive as possible."
Four OSU starters scored all but four of the team's points. In addition to Diebler and Lighty, Buford had 17 and Turner finished with 16. Turner added a game-high 12 rebounds, while Buford had six assists.
The Buckeyes emerged with a 37-33 lead at the break after a first half of runs. OSU came out hot and jumped out to an 8-2 lead thanks to two Diebler three-pointers, but the Illini answered and with a 17-5 run to make it 19-13 when McCamey drained a three-pointer with Buford in his face as the shot clock buzzer sounded with 11:28 remaining.
During that run, OSU went 0 for 5 from the field and committed two turnovers. The teams would trade baskets – a Diebler three for OSU, a jumper by Mike Davis for Illinois – before the Buckeyes regained control with a 12-0 run to make it 28-21 with 7:16 remaining.
The home team was aided by a short break for McCamey, who picked up his second foul with his team ahead 21-16 and headed to the bench at the 9:58 mark. OSU quickly evened the score with an alley-oop dunk from Lighty to Buford off an Illinois turnover and a Diebler three that forced the Illini to call a timeout at the 8:55 mark.
McCamey came back in but could not prevent the Buckeyes from scoring the next seven points. After the timeout, OSU came out in a full-court press and forced the Illini to pass the ball directly to Buford, who subsequently dunked it uncontested to give OSU the lead at the 8:41 mark.
The Illinois point guard did help get his team back in the scoring column, however, finding a wide-open Brandon Paul under the OSU basket for a lay-in that made it 28-23 with 7:03 left.
That, in turn, started a 12-4 Illinois run capped by a three-point play from Paul with 2:26 left that gave the Illini a 33-32 lead. OSU was 1 for 4 and committed two turnovers during the stretch.
After having suffered through their second-worst shooting effort of the season in the first matchup between these two teams, Illinois came out firing this time. The Illini went 4 for 24 (16.7 percent) in the first meeting but hit on 4 of their first 5 in the game, equaling their total for the first game in less than eight minutes.
However, Illinois cooled off after its early success from deep. The Illini hit on 3 of their final 18 treys.
The difference in the first half was second-chance points. OSU had nine of them and the Illini had none.
"In coaching I've been blessed: this is 12 rings in 15 years," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "I said the most important ring is the next one."
Turner drained a three-pointer with one minute remaining to set the final score. He excited seconds later to chants of "one more year" from the OSU fans after scoring 16 points, grabbing 12 boards and dishing out five assists.
As the final seconds ticked off, Buckeye fans stormed the court. With most of them clad in "Club Tril" t-shirts handed out before the game in honor of senior walk-on Mark Titus, they jumped up and down while dancing to unofficial theme song "Seven Nation Army."
"It feels great. It feels amazing. I don't even know what to say," Turner said. "All this hard work that we put in, we always persevered through the tough times. It's amazing and it's a testament to what we did. It feels great.
"But it's not over yet. We've got a couple more trophies to worry about."