INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu both scored 16 points, both grabbed nine rebounds and both made key plays in overtime to give No. 3 Illinois a 91-88 victory over No. 9 Ohio State on Sunday for its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2005.
Cockburn made the go-ahead free throw with 1:39 to play, Dosunmu made a 15-footer with 50 seconds to go and the Illini (23-6) sealed it at the free-throw line. Illinois has won seven straight overall, six in a row over top-10 foes and 14 of its last 15 overall to claim the conference’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
At times, Illinois appeared to be in complete control, but Ohio State (21-9) refused to give in to the weariness of playing four games in four days. Instead, the Buckeyes constantly fought back.
And after erasing a 27-10 first-half lead to force overtime and even take an 81-80 lead with 2:49 to play, Illinois finally broke through thanks to Cockburn and Dosunmu.
It was that kind of game.
Duane Washington Jr. had a career-high 32 points and Justice Sueing added 22 as the Buckeyes refused to go away. They closed the halftime deficit to 40-35 and got as close as 47-45 early in the second half. When Illinois appeared to take control again with a 10-1 run, making it 57-46, the Buckeyes rallied to briefly take a 67-65 lead with 5:35 left in regulation.
And when the Illini thought they had deterred pesky Ohio State once more, Sueing completed a three-point play with 23.6 seconds left to force overtime.
Ohio State: No, they didn’t win the title but the Buckeyes overperformed their No. 5 seed and should have cemented a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They won three games in three days, beat regular-season conference champ Michigan along the way and built some momentum heading into postseason play.
Illinois: The Illini are big, fast and strong — and a legitimate national title contender. After being shut out of the regular-season crown, coach Brad Underwood and his players made it a mission to pick up some hardware in Indy — and they did. The next mission is to bring home some more trophies in April.
By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer