Big Ten champs: Buckeyes knock off Illini on senior night, win conference crown
Published: Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
The night started with tears dripping down the face of senior Mark Titus.
It ended with a floor full of Buckeye nuts celebrating Ohio State's first Big Ten Championship since the 2006-07 season.
Behind a barrage of 3-pointers by junior Jon Diebler, the No. 6 Buckeyes raced past Illinois to win 73-57 on senior night at the Schottenstein Center.
Diebler drained seven shots from behind the arc, including five in the first half. He paced the Buckeyes with 21 points.
With the win, Ohio State clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title. Illinois didn't make it easy, though.
The Illini matched Diebler's first-half onslaught, nailing six 3-pointers of their own to stay within 37-33 after the first frame. Junior Demetri McCamey knocked down four of his five attempts from 3-point range en route to 12 first half points.
Still, Illinois never mustered the run it needed to threaten the Buckeye lead down the stretch.
OSU turned up its defensive pressure in the second half, forcing turnovers with a full court press and allowing fewer open shots from outside. Illinois managed just 24 points after halftime, shooting a woeful 2-for-10 from 3-point range. McCamey was limited to six points in the half.
In perhaps the final home game of his illustrious three-year career, Evan Turner contributed 16 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Junior David Lighty chipped in 15 points and sophomore William Buford had 17, giving the Buckeyes a well-balanced offensive attack.
OSU used a 12-2 run in the second half to grab a 65-51 lead and never looked back.
With the lead intact, coach Thad Matta emptied his bench, allowing his seniors one final cameo on their home floor. For Titus, it was an opportunity to achieve one last "trillion," the term he coined for recording one minute of playing time with no statistical output.
The team gathered with its fans on the court following the victory, rejoicing with plastic sharks commemorating "The Shark" Titus and chants of "one more year" directed at Turner, who experts have penciled in near the top of June's NBA Draft, should he decide to forgo his senior season of eligibility.
Michigan State and Purdue can join in on the Big Ten Championship party by winning their last two games, respectively. Even so, by virtue of a plethora of tiebreakers, OSU will earn the No. 1 seed in next week's Big Ten Tournament.