Going in search of their league-leading fifth Big Ten Conference Tournament title, the Ohio State Buckeyes challenge the Wisconsin Badgers in the championship game of the 16th annual event on Sunday afternoon at United Center.
Wisconsin, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, earned its way into this final bout by taking out fifth-seeded Michigan in the quarterfinals (68-59), and then No. 1 seed Indiana in Saturday's semifinal round (68-56). The Badgers are seeking their third Big Ten Tournament title and their first since 2008 when they defeated Illinois in a 61-48 final. UW's other crown was won in 2004 when it also knocked off the Fighting Illini, 70-53. Overall, this is the fifth Big Ten championship game appearance for the Badgers.
Ohio State, which owns the No. 2 seed in this event, has been the most successful team in Big Ten Tournament history. logging a 25-11 record, appearing in eight championship games, and winning four crowns. The Buckeyes have reached the finale of this event in each of the last four years now, and they won back-to-back titles in 2010-11. Their other two trophies were earned in 2007 and 2002. OSU's track to today's title tilt included a 71-50 rout of 10th-seeded Nebraska in the quarterfinals, and a 61-58 triumph over No. 3 seed Michigan State in Saturday's semifinals.
Ohio State owns an 84-67 lead in the all-time series with Wisconsin, and the teams split a pair of regular-season meetings this year with each winning on its home court. The Buckeyes are 3-1 all-time against the Badgers on a neutral floor, and their only other meeting in the Big Ten Tournament championship game occurred in 2007, with OSU prevailing in a 66-49 final.
Ryan Evans scored 16 points leading four players in double figures, as Wisconsin upended top-seeded Indiana in the semifinals of the Big Ten Conference Tournament on Saturday. Ben Brust tallied a dozen points, while Jared Berggren and Sam Dekker finished with 11 apiece for the Badgers, who shot 51 percent from the field, draining 7-of-18 3-point attempts along the way. An unsightly 15 turnovers could have proved costly if not for the fact that coach Bo Ryan's club dialed up the defensive pressure once more, holding the high-powered Hoosiers to 38.2 percent field goal efficiency while outrebounding them, 35-30. Wisconsin's bench outscored Indiana's, 17-8. The Badgers held another potent offensive team, Michigan, to 40.4 percent shooting and only 59 points the day before.
Aaron Craft went 9-of-13 from the field in netting a game-high 20 points to help push Ohio State past Michigan State in Saturday's other semifinal-round matchup in Chicago. Craft was also busy getting his teammates involved in the action by handing out nine assists. Big Ten scoring champ Deshaun Thomas added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Buckeyes, who won the game despite a lackluster 42.1 percent shooting effort that saw only 7-of-24 3-point attempts find the bottom of the net. OSU also struggled at the charity stripe (6- of-12), but coach Thad Matta's squad committed only five turnovers and held the Spartans to just 40.0 percent field goal efficiency. The Buckeyes outscored MSU in bench points (15-6), points off turnovers (11-0) and out on the break (11-0). Thomas and Sam Thompson were coming off identical 19-point performances in the quarterfinal-round thrashing of Nebraska.