College Basketball Nation: 2011 Big Ten tournament

Big Ten title game preview

March, 13, 2011
3/13/11
10:00
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State and Penn State co-star in the Big Ten tournament title game Sunday. The working subtitle: Nothing in Common.

Ohio State has owned this event. The Buckeyes are playing in their third consecutive Big Ten championship game, won it last season and have won the title three times in its 13-year history.

This event has owned Penn State. Until this season, the Nittany Lions had never made the tourney final, much less won the thing.

“Knowing we’re in the championship is pretty cool,” senior guard Talor Battle said. “I’ve never even made it past Friday before, and now we’re playing on Sunday.”

Ohio State coach Thad Matta loves the tourney. His record in it is 13-4.

Penn State coach Ed DeChellis has endured annual heartburn in the tourney. His record in it is 5-7.

The Buckeyes are led by the freshman in the middle, 280-pound center Jared Sullinger.

The Nittany Lions are led by the senior on the perimeter, 170-pound guard Battle.

The Buckeyes have nothing left to prove to the NCAA tournament selection committee. They’ll be a No. 1 seed, and either they or Kansas figures to be the overall No. 1.

The Nittany Lions may still have a little lingering doubt about their standing with the committee. If they get in, it won’t be by much.

But even with the potential difference in motivation between the two teams, both sides say they really want to win Sunday.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk about how this wasn’t a big deal for Ohio State,” said Buckeyes guard Jon Diebler. “We didn’t listen to that. This is something personally we’d like to win.”

After a month of life on the bubble, Penn State would love to earn an automatic bid instead of sweating for the rest of the day.

Said Battle: “I can tell you one thing: if we win tomorrow, we’re in.”

Battle carries Penn State to Big Ten finals

March, 12, 2011
3/12/11
8:46
PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- When the last of the four bombs dropped, Talor Battle backpedaled, looked briefly into the stands and laughed.

He was on fire. In a span of 155 seconds, the Penn State guard had blitzed Michigan State with four successive 3-pointers. The first two were open, clean looks coming off solid screens. The third was a tough one, over the diligent defense of Mike Kebler, who stands four inches taller than Battle. The fourth was a joke -- Kalin Lucas was all over him, and Battle was several feet behind the 3-point line.

By the time he was done, so were the Spartans. A one-point Penn State lead had become nine, on its way to a 61-48 final score that puts the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten tournament final for the first time.

“I thought Michigan State played pretty good defense,” Battle said. “Not to sound cocky by any means, but I was just zoned in. I couldn’t see [any] defender. Just me and the rim.”

His stroke was so pure, and the moment felt so good, the senior from Albany, N.Y., indulged himself with a brief chuckle.

[+] EnlargeTim Frazier and Talor Battle
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesTim Frazier, Talor Battle and Penn State are headed to the Big Ten tournament title game -- a first for the Nittany Lions.
That was fitting. Because it looks like Battle is getting the last laugh after all.

The best basketball player in Penn State history has toiled for four years without full appreciation because the Nittany Lions have been thoroughly mediocre. Coming into this season, Penn State was just six games over .500 in Battle’s three years, and 14 games under .500 in Big Ten play. There was an NIT championship in 2009, but zero NCAA tournament appearances.

His senior season was more of the same -- brilliant performances that often went unnoticed as the Nittany Lions trended toward .500. He became just the third player in Division I history to accumulate 2,000 points, 600 rebounds and 500 assists, and the world shrugged. He broke the 56-year-old school scoring record and the world yawned.

Heck, they even yawned on Battle’s own campus, where basketball is the ignored stepchild to football. Average home attendance at Bryce-Jordan Arena this season was 7,457, less than half of the listed capacity.

So Battle and the rest of the Lions came here to this tournament cloaked in obscurity. They were 16-13, 9-9 in Big Ten play, and largely disregarded as a potential NCAA tourney team.

Three victories later, most bracketologists have Penn State dancing no matter what happens Sunday against No. 1 Ohio State.

“It would be huge,” Battle said. “That’s what I’ve wanted my whole career.”

He wanted one chance to play on the biggest stage. One chance to show that a scrawny 6-footer with a moderate recruiting profile could take a team to the promised land.

Unless the selection committee pulls open a trap door beneath the Nittanies, they should see their name in the bracket Sunday night.

“I mean, what else do you want us to do?” asked coach Ed DeChellis, who has not guided Penn State to the NCAAs in any of his previous seven seasons in State College. “We’ve done the things we needed to do.”

By that, DeChellis means that he’s scheduled more ambitiously. Penn State played nonconference games against Mississippi, Maryland and Virginia Tech, among others.

The problem is that Penn State lost several of those nonconference games -- by 13 to Ole Miss, by 23 to Maryland and by 10 to Virginia Tech. Throw in a 10-point home loss to Maine and you can understand the bubble trouble.

But backed up against the wall for the past month, Penn State has won all the games it absolutely had to win to stay in contention. It had to protect home court in February against Northwestern and Minnesota, and it did. Then it had to beat those same teams on the road to ensure a .500 league record, and it did.

Then it had to come here and make something big happen. And it did.

“We kept fighting and fighting,” DeChellis said, “and won a lot of games the last three weeks.”

The most important have come in the past three days. After surviving last-place Indiana on Thursday, Penn State upset Wisconsin in a brutal slog of a game, 36-33. Battle had shot horrifically for nearly 78 minutes here in Conseco Fieldhouse until he finally hit a big shot, a 3-pointer that clinched the victory over the Badgers.

That seemed to get him going Saturday. Battle strafed Michigan State for a game-high 25 points, and added seven rebounds and three assists for good measure. He made six of his first eight 3s.

“When he’s on, he’s on,” explained teammate Jermaine Marshall. “And he’s hard to turn off.”

He’s even harder to bench. Battle played all 40 minutes against the Spartans, something he’s now done seven times in Penn State’s past eight games.

This is not time to rest. The final surge to the promised land is at hand. The urgency for Battle and his fellow seniors is tangible.

“I think Battle has grown a lot over his career, and he's definitely playing the best basketball because he's not forcing things and things that I thought he might have done other years,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “I think he's really grown.”

That growth has earned its just reward. At the end of a valorous, but undervalued four-year career, Battle should be able to get the last laugh when the field of 68 is unveiled Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Penn St. 61, Michigan St. 48

March, 12, 2011
3/12/11
6:30
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Penn State took a giant step toward its first NCAA tournament bid in 10 years with a surprisingly easy, 61-48 victory over flat Michigan State. The sixth-seeded Nittany Lions have won four straight games to seemingly push off the bubble and into the field of 68. The Spartans probably locked up their bid Friday night with a blowout of Purdue -- and it showed with their uneven performance Saturday.

Star of the game: Penn State senior Talor Battle. He's ending his stellar career on a high note. Battle scored a game-high 25 points, hitting Michigan State with a flurry of second-half 3-pointers. He also pulled down seven rebounds.

Turning point: Battle broke open a close game with four 3-pointers on four successive possessions -- the last two while heavily guarded. When Battle's barrage was done, Penn State was up by eight and the Spartans never again got closer than seven.

Stat of the game: Penn State beat Michigan State at its own game, outrebounding the Spartans by eight.

What's next: Penn State will face Ohio State for the Big Ten tourney title Sunday. Michigan State will watch the selection show with relative certainty that it will see its name, but at a dramatically different seeding than the Spartans are accustomed to.

Video: Ohio State's Jon Diebler

March, 12, 2011
3/12/11
5:14
PM ET


ESPN.com’s Pat Forde talks with Ohio State’s Jon Diebler after the Buckeyes’ win over Michigan.

Rapid Reaction: Ohio State 68, Michigan 61

March, 12, 2011
3/12/11
3:59
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State answered a second-half Michigan threat with an overpowering 16-0 run on its way to a 68-61 victory. The score was deceptive, as Ohio State watched an 18-point lead unravel at garbage time; the Wolverines never had a realistic chance at winning. The Buckeyes advance to the Big Ten tournament final while Michigan figures it has done enough to earn an NCAA tournament bid.

Star player: Jon Diebler was aggressive early and William Buford assertive late, but the consistently immovable presence of Jared Sullinger was more than the Wolverines could handle inside. Sullinger had 14 points and 13 rebounds, giving him 34 points and 31 rebounds for the tourney. Unlike Friday, Sullinger did not shoot well at the foul line, which limited his scoring output.

Turning point: After Michigan pulled within two at 47-45, Ohio State counterpunched with a 16-0 run keyed by defense and offensive rebounding. The Wolverines had seven straight empty possessions and Buford scored six straight points in that stretch.

Key stat: Michigan never could get anything established inside and wound up shooting 30 2-point shots and 29 from 3-point range.

What's next: Ohio State plays the winner of Michigan State-Penn State for the Big Ten tourney title. Michigan goes home to learn its NCAA seeding, location and opponent Sunday.

Penn State finds beauty in ugly win

March, 12, 2011
3/12/11
12:21
AM ET


INDIANAPOLIS -- The ugliest game in Big Ten history was still a thing of beauty to Penn State.

The score of the Nittany Lions’ victory over Wisconsin was 36-33. Yes, the final score. Jimmer Fredette scored as many points in a half as the Badgers scored all game.

[+] EnlargeDavid Jackson and Jordan Taylor
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesWisconsin's Jordan Taylor and Penn State's David Jackson participated in one of the ugliest games in Big Ten history.
Penn State shot 33 percent from the field. And won.

Penn State shot 25 percent form 3-point range. And won.

Penn State scored 22 points in the final 32:55. And won.

Why? Because Wisconsin was worse. The Badgers were a ghastly 15 of 51 from the field, 2 of 21 from 3-point range. Even by the aesthetically challenged standard of Bo Ryan basketball, this was spectacularly hideous.

But Wisconsin remains an NCAA tournament team -- and now maybe Penn State is one as well. The Nittany Lions were on the bubble coming in here, and their two wins give them an argument for inclusion into the field of 68.

Coach Ed DeChellis certainly believes his team is in.

“Yes,” was his emphatic answer when asked. “We’ve got enough top 50 wins, I think. We deserve to be in the tournament.”

They have four RPI top 50 wins now, against seven losses. And they’ve played a top-10 schedule. But they’ve also lost 13 times, which is why star guard Talor Battle says he isn’t taking anything for granted.

“If we win on Sunday [in the Big Ten final], our ticket is punched,” he said.

That’s probably the right attitude. In fact, Battle’s attitude was vital to winning this game.

Battle is a great shooter who has had a train-wreck tournament shooting the ball. Through two games he’s 6 for 30 from the field and 4 for 16 from 3-point range. But with Penn State clinging to a 32-30 lead in the final minutes, Battle lobbied point guard Tim Frazier for the ball.

“I promise I’ll make the shot,” he told Frazier.

He made the shot -- a 3-pointer with 2:24 left. That was an insurmountable five-point lead in this game, although Wisconsin got a wide-open look to tie with 15 seconds left. Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin’s best player, had a great look that thudded off the front iron.

“When that ball hit the rim I was so scared,” Battle admitted.

His fears were for naught. Penn State hung on, in a game that might have set the game back several decades but might have launched the Lions to their first NCAA bid in a long time.

Rapid Reaction: Penn St. 36, Wisconsin 33

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
11:34
PM ET
In a flatly hideous display of basketball, Penn State shocked Wisconsin 36-33. Yes, that is the final score. The Nittany Lions keep their outside shot at a bid for an NCAA tournament berth alive with their second victory of the season over the Badgers. Wisconsin has recorded consecutive duds, being blown out at Ohio State to end the regular season and now this.

Turning point: Penn State took a 14-0 lead, as the Badgers failed to score for the first 7 1/2 minutes. Wisconsin battled back to tie at three different points in the second half but never led.

Star player: Guess you'd have to say Talor Battle, who led the Nittany Lions in scoring with, ahem, nine points.

Key stat: Wisconsin shot 29 percent from the field and 9.5 percent from 3-point range.

What's next: Penn State plays Michigan State in an all-underdog semifinal Saturday afternoon, and with a victory might just earn the Big Ten's seventh NCAA bid. Wisconsin can return to Madison to hide in shame after this performance.

A special time for Michigan State

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
11:04
PM ET


INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s that time again in college basketball.

Izzo Time.

Time for the Michigan State Spartans to shed their worries, to play at a dramatically different level, to become the most stubborn out in the postseason. Time for big shots and big stops, tenacious rebounds and pinpoint passes, ferocious blocked shots and timely steals. Time for laser focus on the scouting report, crisp walk-throughs and a sharpened sense of purpose at tipoff.

Time to win or go home -- and Tom Izzo’s teams tend to win in those situations.

The seventh-seeded Spartans crushed second-seeded Purdue 74-56 Friday in the Big Ten quarterfinals, sewing up an NCAA tournament bid that at several points in this dysfunctional season seemed out of reach. They eked out a close victory Thursday against Iowa, limped out of that with a few battered bodies, appeared in over their heads against a Boilermakers team that already had beaten them twice -- and then dominated the game from the opening tip.

They led 10-2. They led 21-10. They led 37-23 at halftime. They pushed the lead to 20 just a couple of minutes into the second half, then rolled to the final horn without Purdue ever coming closer than nine.

They barely fell short of fulfilling the request from guard Kalin Lucas at the team meal to forward Draymond Green.

“Day-Day,” Lucas said, “let’s beat them by 20.”

It was a preposterous thing for Lucas to say, considering he didn’t even participate in the team walk-through after rolling his ankle Thursday against Iowa. Lucas got treatment on the ankle last night, got out of bed Friday morning, took one step and said, “Man, it’s sore.”

So he got more treatment all day, but nobody was sure how much he could do against the Boilermakers.

Naturally, he went off for a career-high 30. Nobody from the state of Michigan has looked that good on a bad wheel since Isiah Thomas in the NBA Finals in 1988.

“Kalin’s a warrior,” said teammate Delvon Roe. “The way he played through the ankle pain was phenomenal.”

That’s what players do at Izzo Time. Lucas shrugs off an injury and burns up the nets. Roe, who has the right knee of a retired NFL player, shrugs off the pain of playing back-to-back nights to produce eight rebounds and four blocked shots.

“He sits up here and says Kalin’s a warrior,” Green said of Roe. “That’s what he is.”

At Izzo Time, there are warriors everywhere in green and white. There’s freshman Keith Appling hitting two 3-pointers. There’s Durrell Summers hauling down eight rebounds. There’s Mike Kebler making a key steal and hammering home a dunk. There’s Derrick Nix bodying up on Purdue center JaJuan Johnson.

There’s a 13-loss team suddenly looking like it can go to yet another Final Four.

For months, the warriors were worriers. They were snorkeling through an awful season, underperforming after starting the season ranked second in the nation. They lost so often that Michigan State found itself in uncharted territory for the first time in years -- sweating it out on the bubble like a bunch of commoners.

“For the first time, honest to God, I saw it [Thursday] night,” Izzo said. “I think the mental strain that’s been on this team since the end of January kind of got to us a little bit.”

But a team that went to bed Thursday mentally fatigued woke up Friday with renewed vigor. The walk-throughs and film sessions at the team hotel were so sharp that they reminded Izzo of the 2009 regional final, when the locked-in Spartans upset top seed Louisville to go to the Final Four.

“There was just a focus,” Lucas said, “from [player] one to 15 and from the coaches.”

That’s because it’s Izzo Time.

But Michigan State has had so many letdowns and disappointing losses this year that you won’t catch the coach getting overly dazzled by this performance. His wariness is well-earned.

“We’re breathing, but we’re not out of the water,” he said. “We’re not at the beach, I can tell you that.”

Izzo vowed to have the postgame smiles of his players wiped away by the time the Spartans got back to their hotel room. But he was happy to see them after so much drama and trauma this year.

“They should smile,” Izzo said. “They earned it. They earned their way.”

Earned their way to the NCAAs, and they could be the most dangerous 19-13 team that tourney has ever seen. At Izzo Time, you never count out the Spartans.

Rapid Reaction: Michigan St. 74, Purdue 56

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
8:53
PM ET
Unsinkable Michigan State undoubtedly punched its Big Dance ticket with an upset romp over second-seeded Purdue, 74-56.

The season-long underachievers once again appear to be peaking at the right time, leading from the start. The Boilermakers were never really in the game in the second half. As much as the victory helps the Spartans' NCAA tourney résumé, this loss combined with the regular-season ending upset loss to Iowa hurts Purdue's seeding.

Star player: Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas shook off a rolled ankle from Thursday to light up the Boilermakers, scoring 30 points. Lucas was 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the first half and did his damage in the second at the free-throw line, making 10 of 11 foul shots.

Turning point: The Spartans jumped to a 10-2 lead and forced a Purdue timeout just 3:11 into the game. That set the tone for the rest of the night.

Key stat: Michigan State was 7-of-9 from 3-point range in the first half while the Boilermakers were 1-for-10.

What's next: The Spartans will face the winner of the Wisconsin-Penn State game in the Big Ten semifinals Saturday afternoon. Purdue will go home and try to regroup from a rough finish to the season.

Michigan: Getting to Yes

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
6:47
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Yes Face is working for the Michigan Wolverines.

That is coach John Beilein’s phrase for the positive visage he wants to see at all times during games in his team’s huddles. It’s a term that dates back more than 200 years, to Thomas Jefferson crossing a flooded river on horseback -- but as Beilein himself said, “It’s a long story.”

The shorter version: No bad vibes allowed. Look positive and look confident, no matter what the scoreboard says.

Friday against Illinois, there were ample opportunities for No Faces from the Wolverines. They played a miserable first half and were down 11 at intermission. They trailed for 24:19 of the game’s 40 minutes. They trailed by more than six points for 17:31 of that time.

But even as the frustration mounted, the faces still said Yes.

“It’s just showing that you believe, and there’s power in it,” Beilein said. “We have some frowners on the team, the coach can be a frowner. We need to stop frowning. We need to just play through and show that Yes Face all the time. Yes, I can do it.”

Turned out Michigan could do it. Could come all the way back and beat Illinois 60-55, using an 18-4 closing run to win in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

And that will lead to the most important Yes Faces of all -- from the NCAA tournament selection committee. With this win, the Wolverines are in.

“It’s a huge win,” guard Zack Novak said.

It’s also a difficult loss for Illinois, which once again went vast stretches of time getting very little out of its offense and nothing in transition. The Illini are probably still in the Big Dance, but they’ll at least have to deal with 48 hours of nagging doubt until the field is released.

“Very disappointing, very sad,” coach Bruce Weber said. “But just got to hope for the best now that we'll be able to play basketball next week.”

Michigan gets to turn around and play basketball again Saturday, against No. 1 Ohio State. The Buckeyes have beaten their arch rivals twice already this season, but the third time around could be tricky. For one thing, the thin Buckeyes went a grueling 45 minutes against Northwestern on Friday in the quarterfinals, with star center Jared Sullinger playing all of them.

“We’re definitely looking forward to it,” said guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

The son of the former NBA all-star was the hero for Michigan on Friday. He shook off a rough shooting day -- the power of the Yes Face -- to hit the go-ahead 3-pointer for the Wolverines with 1:42 remaining. Hardaway then added two free throws with 48 seconds left to help keep the Illini at bay.

At the time Hardaway rose up for the biggest shot of Michigan’s season, he was 3 for 10 from the field. But with his dad sitting courtside doing radio analysis, the freshman didn’t shy away from the pressure. Hardaway locked in on his fundamentals, getting great lift for the shot and holding his follow-through until the ball ripped the net.

“He made big play after big play,” Novak said. “He’s as competitive as any kid I’ve ever seen.”

Hardaway’s progress has been instrumental to Michigan’s late-season charge from a likely NIT team to a lock for the NCAAs. The Wolverines have won seven of their last nine games, and in that time Hardaway has averaged 18.9 points and made 29 of 54 3-point shots.

Hardaway finished with 16 Friday and had plenty of support on the offensive end. Darius Morris had 17 points and seven assists. Novak had 14. Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz only combined to make three of nine shots, but they were all 3s and all part of Michigan’s persistent comeback.

For the longest time, it looked like the Wolverines would never get over the hump -- but more importantly, they refused to be blown out. Down nine for a large percentage of the second half, they rope-a-doped just long enough to stay within striking range when the shots finally began to fall.

“The second half just staying at nine points, it could have got to be 15 or 16,” Beilein said. “People will talk about the run that we made. It was that sustaining where we were the first 10 minutes, 12 minutes of the second half that I thought were just as key so that we could be in position to be in position. We don't get this win if we had to come back from 15.”

And if the Wolverines don’t get this win, they might have been on the outside looking in Sunday. Chalk this vital victory up to the power of the Yes Face.

Video: Michigan's Stu Douglass

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
5:28
PM ET


Pat Forde talks with Michigan’s Stu Douglass after the win over Illinois.

Rapid Reaction: Michigan 60, Illinois 55

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
5:08
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Michigan Wolverines are definitely dancing. Their comeback from a 12-point second-half deficit against Illinois assuredly moves them off the bubble and into the field of 68. Illinois will be in as well, but this probably hurts its seeding.

Star of the game: Darius Morris had 17 points and seven assists for Michigan, but it was freshman Tim Hardaway Jr. who made the biggest shots for the Wolverines. Hardaway's 3-pointer with 1:42 left gave Michigan its first lead since early in the game, and his two free throws in the final minute helped keep them in front. He finished with 16 points.

Turning point: Down 51-42, Michigan's defense held Illinois without a point for the next five-and-a-half minutes while hitting several timely 3s of their own. By the time the Illini scored again, they were in a dogfight.

Key stat: Michigan had clutch shooters, hitting 46 percent from 3-point range and 82 percent from the line.

What's next: The Wolverines will get a third shot at Ohio State tomorrow, and the thin Buckeyes are coming off an overtime game in which Jared Sullinger played all 45 minutes. Upset alert is on. Illinois goes home to see what its seeding, destination and opponent will be in the NCAAs Sunday.

Sullinger won't let Buckeyes lose

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
5:01
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- When defending Ohio State, you must pick your poison.

You either double-team Jared Sullinger in the paint and risk being shot out of the gym by the Buckeyes’ array of shooters, or you let the big man operate one-on-one.

[+] EnlargeOhio State Buckeyes Jared Sullinger
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireOhio State freshman Jared Sullinger came through at the line for the Buckeyes, making 16-of-18 shots.
After watching Ohio State make an NCAA-record 14-of-15 3-pointers Sunday against Wisconsin, Northwestern opted for the latter Friday. It spent most of the afternoon with just one lonely defender watching the freshman strong man.

It almost worked. The underdog Wildcats got the game into overtime, largely by controlling tempo and limiting Ohio State to just 3-of-15 shooting from 3-point range. But Sullinger wouldn’t let Ohio State lose, and made Northwestern pay for its defensive decision.

Sullinger used his broad shoulders and ample derriere to muscle for position, and his teammates delivered the ball. The 6-foot-9, 280-pound teenager wore out every big man Bill Carmody had.

He fouled out Davide Curletti and Luka Mirkovic and drew fouls from John Shurna when he was thrust into defend-the-post service. Sullinger had a Kevin Love line: 20 points and 18 rebounds, and he made 16 of 18 free throws to power Ohio State to a shaky 67-61 victory.

“Gotta make your free throws,” Sullinger said. “Free throws are a big part of my game.”

At one point he scored nine straight Ohio State points, from late in regulation through the first 2:17 of overtime.

“It’s the Big Ten,” Sullinger explained. “This is where you’ve got to be physical. Everyone’s going to foul you.”

Sullinger said the officials “are going to swallow their whistles,” but Northwestern fans would disagree after watching Sullinger’s parade to the foul line. The Wildcats were so frustrated that when Mirkovic was called for his fourth foul in overtime, he spiked his mouthpiece to the floor and drew a technical that got him fouled out.

Not the smartest play from a guy at a brainy school.

“You just can’t make that showy kind of maneuver,” Carmody said. “The ref is not there to interpret whether you did that because you’re mad at yourself or at him. He just sees the action.”

This was the second time Northwestern had pushed Ohio State to the brink, losing by a point in Evanston, Ill. in late January. In that game, Sullinger scored the winning point on a free throw.

“I can’t stand to lose, personally,” he said. “If we’d lost this game, I’d probably be punching lockers, throwing stuff around. You’ve got to hate losing more than you love winning.”

Ohio State has lost only twice this season, so Sullinger hasn’t had to experience much of that. In large part because he won’t let his team lose.

Video: Ohio State's Aaron Craft

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
4:24
PM ET


Pat Forde talks with Aaron Craft after Ohio State’s win over Northwestern.

Rapid Reaction: Ohio State 67, N'western 61

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
2:31
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State dodged a major upset, outlasting Northwestern 67-61 in overtime in the Big Ten quarterfinals. The victory strengthens the Buckeyes' case for an overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney, but it didn't come easy. They trailed late in regulation before asserting control in overtime.

Star of the game: Buckeyes big man Jared Sullinger wore out every big man the Wildcats threw at him. He fouled out Davide Curletti and Luka Mirkovic and drew fouls from John Shurna as well. For the game Sullinger had 20 points and 18 rebounds and shot 18 free throws. With the more veteran Buckeyes all struggling shooting the ball, Sullinger's brute strength was key.

Turning point: Down 56-52 in OT, Mirkovic hit a big 3-pointer. But then he committed his fourth foul against Sullinger, and in frustration slammed his mouthpiece to the ground. That was a technical foul, and that fouled him out. After that Sullinger made six more free throws to ice the game.

Stat of the game: Ohio State shot 14 more free throws and grabbed 17 more rebounds.

What's next: Ohio State advances to the semifinals Saturday to face the winner of Michigan-Illinois. Northwestern hopes that 18-13 will be enough to host an NIT game.

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