Illini prevail, are Big Ten Champs

Illinois survives in Columbus to win school's first outright conference title in 52 years

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Last season, Wisconsin won the Big Ten title outright when Devin Harris hit a free throw with four-tenths of a second left on the clock to beat Illinois 60-59 in Madison.


This season, the Illini did not have to watch any free throws.


Illinois overcame a furious Ohio State comeback in the game's final minutes, securing a 64-63 road win and the Illini's first outright conference title in 52 years.


Illinois held a 14-point lead with nine minutes left in Sunday's game and still led 61-51 will four minutes, 44 seconds remaining.


With Terrence Dials and Tony Stockman leading the way, though, the Buckeyes came storming back. Stockman drilled  a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to play to draw Ohio State within 64-63. Illinois sophomore guard Deron Williams then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with 5.2 seconds left, giving the Buckeyes a shot at victory.


Junior guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham, though, never got a shot off. He raced the length of the court, cut to the paint and bumped into Illinois center James Augustine, who had slid up the paint to impede his progress. Augustine was moving when contact was made, but this was not the kind of foul that would be called with a game on the line. Fuss-Cheatham lost the ball out of bounds, no foul was called and the Illini celebrated a wild finish to a wild second half of their season.


Illinois has now won 10 consecutive games, last losing Jan. 24 at Wisconsin. The Illini capped their conference regular season crown with an overtime win at Purdue preceding Sunday's finish in Columbus.


Illinois is the No. 1 seed for this week's Big Ten Tournament and will play the winner of the matchup between No. 9 seed Ohio State and No. 8 Indiana at 11 a.m. CST, Friday, March 12. The Buckeyes and Hoosiers tip off at 11 a.m. Thursday.


Dials finished with 22 points Sunday, 12 in the last seven minutes. Stockman chipped in 13, including two 3-pointers in the final 2:34.


Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head combined for 45 points for Illinois, which finished the season 13-3 in the Big Ten, 22-5 overall.


Big Ten Tournament bracket

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