Deshaun Thomas kept shooting, determined to score enough to bump tired Buckeyes to the victory. Aaron Craft did a little bit of everything in the Big 10 tournament final. This was one determined bunch of Buckeyes.
Thomas scored 17 points and No. Ten Buckeyes used its stout defense to beat No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers 50-43 on Sunday for its conference-best 5th tournament title.
”We were challenging our guys every timeout, informing them, ‘You’ve got another gear. You have got another gear,”’ Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. ”Fortunately for us, we made some big plays and then ultimately knocked a pair shots down.”
Thomas was 6 for 19 from the field, but made some big free throws down the stretch as Ohio State won the championship for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. Craft, who was voted the most outstanding player of the tournament, had 9 points and 6 rebounds, and LaQuinton Ross delivered a couple of big plays.
”Well, we draw the line,” Thomas claimed. ”Coach told us in the huddle, the fatigue got to us, but got to let it all on the table and let it out, and that is what we did. We were given our stops and we got guys who came in and hit big shots, and that is what this basketball team is all about.”
Ohio State Buckeyes (26-7) were rewarded with a No. 2 seed in the West Region for the NCAA tournament and a 2nd-round game in Dayton, Ohio, against Iona. Wisconsin is in the same region, with the 5th-seeded Badgers to play Ole Miss Rebels in their first game in Kansas City, Mo.
”Playing in Dayton, you can’t get anything better,” Craft declared. ”Buckeye Nation travels very well, particularly when it’s an hour down the road.” Odds
Traevon Jackson scored 10 points for the Badgers (23-11), who shot 38.3 percent from the field. None of his teammates reached double figures, with Sam Dekker next up at 8 points.
”It’s a disappointment,” senior Ryan Evans declared. ”We definitely wanted to leave here with some hardware, but moving forward, we have the NCAA competition. It’s a bigger thing, and I’m looking forward that.”
Wisconsin and Ohio State Buckeyes were close for almost all of the 2nd half, but the Buckeyes seized on a cold spell by the Badgers to move in front down the stretch.
After Dekker scored on a reverse layup with 7:01 remaining, Wisconsin went scoreless for the next 4 minutes while Ross stepped up for Buckeyes. He had a strong offensive rebound and putback, and then converted a layup to make it 47-41 with 2:39 to go.
”I thought Q was tremendous,” Matta said. ”He did have two a couple of timely field goals for us, a couple big rebounds. That’s what we need from LaQuinton at that spot.”
Jackson made 2 free throws to stop the scoring drought for the Wisconsin Badgers, who forced a shot clock violation on the other end. But Ben Brust missed a long 3-pointer and Thomas went 3 for 4 at the line in the last minute.
Dekker’s basket was Wisconsin’s last field goal of the game.