Just as everyone had expected, the Ohio State Buckeyes got a chance to compete for a Big Ten title in Indianapolis! Hold on, I'm now getting word that this is actually Chris Holtmann’s basketball squad and not the football team. Who says Ohio State is only a football school?
It was a long and winding road for Ohio State to get to this position. Following a blowout loss to Minnesota on Jan. 3, the Buckeyes would go on to win 10 of their next 11 contests, including a seven-game win streak that saw victories over four top-15 opponents on the road. The impressive run got Ohio State as high as No. 4 in the AP Poll, but from there Holtmann’s guys would stumble down the stretch.
Ohio State lost each of its final four games of the regular season, which included close losses to No. 3 Michigan, Michigan State and No. 4 Illinois and an ugly loss to No. 9 Iowa. As a result, the Buckeyes would head into the Big Ten Tournament as a No. 5 seed and without any momentum to bring with them. They just narrowly missed out on a double-bye, which meant that Ohio State would have to win four-straight games to win to take home the trophy.
Going into Selection Sunday, Holtmann and crew were three-quarters of the way there after knocking off Minnesota, Purdue and Michigan in a row to advance to the B1G title game. All three victories followed nearly the same script — Ohio State holds a double-digit lead early in the second period, forgets how to play basketball for the final three minutes of action, and nearly blows the game in spectacular fashion. Luckily, the Buckeyes have been able to escape each and every time, with their win over the Wolverines an incredibly impressive feat even despite the near-collapse.
Ohio State led Michigan by 11 points with just 3:18 left to play, but then came time for the Ohio State Basketball Experience™. After a Hunter Dickinson layup, E.J. Liddell shockingly missed a wide open fast break dunk, and the Wolverines turned it into two points at the other end to cut their deficit to seven. Following one made free throw from Justice Sueing, things really started to get ugly for the Buckeyes.
Dickinson scored again on a put-back layup on the offensive glass, and from there back-to-back turnovers by Liddell led to five more points for Michigan on another Dickinson basket inside and a three-pointer by Chaundee Brown. Ohio State had a chance to extend its lead with 47 seconds remaining, but CJ Walker turned it over on the baseline to give the Wolverines the last shot with 28 seconds left now trailing by just one. In a bit of a head-scratcher, Mike Smith — who went just 1-of-11 in the contest — elected to take the final shot, and it clanked off the back iron as the Buckeyes escaped victorious, 68-67.
With the win over Michigan, Ohio State has now beaten every team it has played this season at least once. The victory set up Sunday’s Big Ten Championship Game, which saw the Buckeyes up against a familiar foe in Illinois. Would Ohio State be able to replicate its 87-81 victory over the Illini from back in January, or would we get a similar performance to the 73-68 loss the Buckeyes suffered to end the regular season?
In the third meeting between two of the premiere teams in the conference, Illinois came out on top to secure a Big Ten title. It took an extra period of play, but the Illini proved to be too much for the Buckeyes down the final stretch as they won the B1G — for real this time.
It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort from Duane Washington Jr., who did all he could to try and will his team to victory with a career-high 32 points on 5-of-10 shooting from deep to go along with eight rebounds. CJ Walker was great off the bench as well, scoring 16 points as well as pouring in a team-high six assists and four rebounds. Justice Sueing also had a bit of a coming out party, scoring 22 points. It wasn’t a particularly good game for E.J. Liddell, who finished the game 3-of-16 from the floor including 0-of-7 from downtown.
The Buckeyes had a tough time guarding Illinois’ top two scorers in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, who both scored 16 points in the contest. Cockburn was a powerful force inside, pulling down a game-high nine rebounds, while Dosunmu also had nine boards and four assists. Andre Curbello added 16 points, six boards and five dimes as the Illini got a full-team effort to emerge victorious.
This one was a doozy. Follow along below to see how this one played out.
20:00 — Ohio State came out on Sunday with the same starting five we saw against Michigan: Duane Washington Jr. and Musa Jallow at the guard spots, with Justin Ahrens at the three and Justice Sueing and E.J. Liddell rounding out the forwards. The Buckeyes won the tip, and we were underway...
No matter what happens today, it's just nice to see the Buckeyes playing on Selection Sunday again as God intended— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) March 14, 2021
19:32 — We got our first taste of Kofi Cockburn on the glass early, as the 7-foot monster of a human being secured an offensive board off an Ayo Dosunmu missed layup and put it back up for the first points of the afternoon. Justice Sueing got two points back at the free throw line at the other end as both teams were on the scoreboard quickly.
15:29 — It was clear that Illinois was putting a point of emphasis on getting the ball to Cockburn in the paint, as the severely undersized Ohio State squad struggled to contain him underneath. The Buckeyes came out of the gate shooting ice cold, beginning 0-of-8 from the field including 0-of-6 from three-point land. OSU was having little success driving to the basket against Cockburn, and they began relying on a deep ball that wasn’t falling.
The Illini weren’t exactly lighting it up either, beginning their afternoon 4-of-12 shooting, but it was enough to take a 9-5 lead into the first media timeout. Sueing was 0-of-3, including a missed fast break layup, while Washington and Liddell each began 0-of-2 from the floor.
This reminds me a little of Ohio State's start to its second-round NCAAT game against Gonzaga three years ago. Absolutely nothing falling, even the easy ones. Getting some good looks and drawing fouls.— Adam Jardy (@AdamJardy) March 14, 2021
13:26 — Ohio State hit their first field goal of the game on a Sueing layup. Unfortunately, as bad as things were going at the offensive end, it was starting to leak into the defense. The Buckeyes were clearly outmatched by Cockburn, and the big man knocked down the free throw on an and-one for his ninth early point of the game as Illinois was now on top 16-7.
Six minutes and 34 seconds into the game, Ohio State finally makes its first field goal of the game on a Justice Sueing layup. Buckeyes missed their first nine shots from the field.— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) March 14, 2021
12:08 — Pretty much the only thing Ohio State was doing well to start the game was draw fouls, as with over 12 minutes to go the Buckeyes were already in the bonus. Unfortunately living at the free throw line wasn’t enough to keep up with the Illini offense. Following back-to-back three-pointers by Dosunmu and Da’Monte Williams, Holtmann’s guys were now trailing 22-9.
Can Ohio State win the game if they only score from the free throw line? Looks like we're fixing to figure out.— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) March 14, 2021
9:59 — Still waiting for Ohio State to make their second field goal. The Buckeyes have started off 1-of-13 from the floor, 0-of-7 from beyond the arc, and are looking like a team with tired legs playing in their fourth game in four days. It was now 25-10 Illinois after a free throw from Liddell.
8:27 — !! OHIO STATE MAKES ITS SECOND FIELD GOAL TO CUT IT TO 27-12 !!
The ultimate spin zone for Ohio State if anybody's looking for one right now: Nobody has more first-hand evidence of how to come back from a sizable deficit than Ohio State.— Colin Hass-Hill (@chasshill) March 14, 2021
4:39 — For as poorly as Ohio State started in this game, they miraculously were able to keep things within reach as we went under the five-minute mark of the first period. The Buckeyes had connected on five-straight baskets, with Washington drilling back-to-back jumpers and CJ Walker hitting a pull-up mid-range bucket after swiping the ball from Dosunmu. Still shooting under 30% as a team, Ohio State had to feel fortunate to trail by only 11, with the score at 31-20.
2:57 — Ohio State finally began to look like the team that battled its way into the Big Ten title game. The defense had really picked up, and OSU began electing to foul Cockburn when they were beat instead of letting him go up with the ball, and he started his afternoon 3-of-6 from the charity stripe. The Buckeyes had now knocked down seven-straight shots, and after an and-one layup by Washington it was somehow just a nine-point game.
Buckeyes may lose this game — may lose it big — but don’t think this is team that will quit and that’s biggest difference between this year’s team and recent ones.— Jeremy Birmingham (@Birm) March 14, 2021
0:51 — A little confidence after seeing the ball finally go through the hoop can go a long way, as Ohio State had completely turned its shooting around. The Buckeyes had knocked down nine of their last 10 field goal attempts to spark a 10-1 run and cut the deficit down to just five. On the defensive end, OSU had held Illinois without a made basket from the floor for nearly three minutes.
0:00 — Ohio State closed the half on a 19-9 stretch, making 10 of their last 12 attempts from the field and somehow trailing by only five heading into the locker room. If you’re Chris Holtmann, you have to count that as a massive victory with how poorly your team shot the ball for the first 15 minutes of action. If the Buckeyes could put it all together in the second period, they had a real shot to come away victorious in this one.
Duane Washington Jr. was really the spark plug in that final run, scoring a game-high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting including some really nice makes around the rim. His three-pointer with 23 seconds remaining followed by a Eugene Brown III steal gave Ohio State some momentum at the break.
Ohio State showed a lot of fight in this game, never giving in despite an incredibly bleak outlook from the jump. After missing 15 of their first 16 shot attempts and trailing by 17 points, the Buckeyes made 10 of their final 12 field goals and trailed just 40-35 through 20 minutes.
Ohio State did it all without much from leading scorer E.J. Liddell, who played 13 minutes in the period and went 0-of-4 from the field with just five points. All things considered, Holtmann had to feel good about his team’s chances the rest of the way.
19:03 — Ohio State scored first in the second period, getting the ball inside to Sueing for the bucket as the Buckeyes were now within three points, 40-37.
15:43 — It was officially a battle as we reached the first media timeout of the second period, with Illinois now holding a 45-41 lead. Both teams were locking in at the defensive end as shots became hard to come by, but the Liddell we all know and love started to show up. He knocked down his first jumper of the afternoon, and shortly thereafter forced a turnover by Cockburn.
E.J. Liddell just channeled his inner CJ Walker, going full extension to try and get a loose ball. In the process, somehow Kofi Cockburn fouled him. Not sure, but #Buckeyes ball, down 45-41.— Adam Jardy (@AdamJardy) March 14, 2021
13:32 — The Big Ten ref show has commenced. It isn’t a true conference game if the referees don't alternate from letting players play full contact football for a half and then begin to call fouls on looking at a guy funny in the second half. Ticky-tack fouls became the norm at both ends, and after an and-one by Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Illinois led 52-45. The fouls were annoying and ruined the flow of the game, but it was starting to hurt Illinois more than Ohio State as Cockburn picked up his third.
Kofi Cockburn is on the bench with three fouls. That’s a big developement.— Eleven Warriors (@11W) March 14, 2021
12:32 — Ohio State was getting beat on the boards by Bezhanishvili, and it was hurting them on the scoreboard just as much. Back-to-back and-ones by the Illini big man, both of which coming off offensive rebounds, put Illinois back up by nine, 55-46. Bezhanishvili had scored the last 10 points for his team as the Buckeyes’ size once again was beginning to play a big role. The game was starting to slip once again.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili is coming up with some crucial putbacks for and-ones right now. All 5 of his rebounds are offensive.— Stephen Means (@Stephen_Means) March 14, 2021
11:12 — Ohio State fell into one of their classic scoring droughts, failing to make a basket for nearly four-straight minutes of action before Washington Jr. knocked down a contested three-pointer to get the Buckeyes back within eight. However, fouls were beginning to pile up on the defensive end, and Ohio State once again trailed by double-digits after a pair of free throws from Adam Miller.
8:29 — Sparked by Washington, Ohio State went on a little run to cut the deficit to just two points. After a free throw from Liddell, Washington knocked down another tough three-pointer, and from there some nifty interior moves by Sueing and Walker led to back-to-back layups as the Buckeyes now trailed 59-57.
The Buckeyes simply do not quit. pic.twitter.com/oHMCBfzKR7— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) March 14, 2021
5:55 — Duane Washington Jr. ties the game with a three-pointer, 65-65. Almost all of his last few makes from downtown have been highly contested. When that man gets hot, the basket looks like an ocean to him.
4:20 — Ohio State takes its first lead of the game on a midrange jumper by Walker. The pace has picked up tremendously. However, Illinois comes back down and hits shots on two-straight possessions to win the Race to 69™, 69-67.
3:21 — Trent Frazier drills a three from the corner to put Illinois up by five as the Illini have now rattled off seven-straight points. Holtmann quickly calls a timeout to try and get his guys to regroup. Ohio State will need one final push if they want to come away victorious in a true Big Ten battle.
2:40 — Ayo Dosunmu hits a long three. Ohio State looks tired. Feels like that one could be the dagger as Illinois takes a 75-69 lead.
1:39 — NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND. Washington Jr. drills another three to get Ohio State back within three points. Washington now has 30 points, and he is doing everything he can to will his team to a victory here. Regardless of the final outcome, it has been a truly spectacular performance for the junior.
Washington Jr. ties career high (30 pts) with a 3 to make it 75-72 Illinois, timeout Illini, with 1:26 to play. Washington Jr. has 90 points in Indy.— Dan Wallenberg (@OSUADAthComm) March 14, 2021
0:33 — Da’Monte Williams gets the midrange to fall as Illinois leads 77-74. Ohio State will get one more chance to hit a three-pointer to tie the game before having to start intentionally fouling to extend the clock.
0:23 — Three-pointer, be damned! Justice Sueing takes it to the rack and draws the and-one as the contested layup falls through traffic. The free throw is good, and we’re all tied up at 77-77.
0:00 — Dosunmu’s three-point attempt is no good! Cockburn pulls down the offensive board, but Liddell slaps the ball out of his hands on the attempted put back and we are heading to overtime to decide the Big Ten champ.
PUTBACK DENIED.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 14, 2021
E.J. Liddell sends this one to OT. pic.twitter.com/uOT4QuOXNt
4:07 — Illinois strikes first in the extra period on a jumper by Andre Curbello. Walker responds with a pair of free throws. Tied once again at 79-79.
2:50 — Dosunmu works his way to the line. The 78% free throw shooter makes one as the Illini regain a one-point lead. Washington Jr. comes up big once again at the other end with a layup through traffic as Ohio Sate leads by one, 81-80. Washington has a career-high 32 points.
1:39 — Liddell intentionally fouls Cockburn after an offensive board. They review it for a flagrant foul but it was clearly not malicious so it stays a common foul. Cockburn hits both at the line, 82-81 Illinois.
0:50 — Lidell turns it over off his own foot. Curbello comes down at the other end and knocks down a wide open midrange jumper. Ohio State trails 84-81 with under a minute to go.
0:39 — Sueing turns it over now. The Buckeyes can’t get out of their own way. They will have to come away with a defensive stop if they have any chance to tie this thing back up.
Six turnovers 44 minutes. Two brutal turnovers in the last 30 seconds— Bill Landis (@BillLandis25) March 14, 2021
0:26 — Ohio State intentionally fouls. Curbello knocks down a pair at the line. Washington’s three-pointer comes up short. This one appears to be over. The Buckeyes once again fail to control the ball in the closing minutes of a game, but this time it costs them big.
Good showing. Good run. Still beat Michigan when it mattered.— Jason Priestas (@priestas) March 14, 2021
0:15 — Seth Towns knocks down a three-pointer to at least make things interesting. Ohio State still trails 87-84, but now they need to hope for a pair of misses at the free throw line.
0:00 — Dosunmu hits both. Ohio State trails by five with 14 seconds remaining. Liddell’s last attempt at a three-pointer is no good, but Illinois was called for a foul under the basket. Towns hits one of two free throws, and the Illini make one final trip to the free throw line as they come away with a 91-88 victory (Walker hit a half-court three at the buzzer) in overtime of the Big Ten title game.