There’s a school of thought that after going through a grueling Big Ten schedule that it’s not always such a bad thing if you don’t end up battling for the championship in the conference tournament in order to be fresher as the Big Dance looms.
Yeah, try telling that to Ohio State or Wisconsin, who battled it out for the title Sunday at the United Center.
“Well, unless I missed something growing up, I always wanted to play — so play,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “Our guys like to play.”
And play they did. In a game that featured 10 lead changes, Ohio State had just too much down the stretch while the Badgers (23-11) went ice cold from the field and dropped the championship game 50-43 in front of a sold-out crowd.
The Buckeyes (26-7) trailed by as many as 9 points late in the first half, but dug deep and went on an 8-0 run over the final three minutes to get within a point by halftime and then turned it on in the second half.
That’s something you might not have seen from Ohio State earlier this season.
“We didn’t freak out,” said Deshaun Thomas, who led all scorers with 17 points. “We got in the huddle, we took a deep breath, and we stayed with our system.
“I know last month we probably would have freaked out and forced a lot of things, but we stayed with it and we kept our head in it, and we made a nice little run.”
And it had their coach beaming.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a basketball team in terms of you look at this tournament and you look at this league, and we’ve gone 21 straight games, and to be standing atop of it today, last college basketball game of the regular season, incredible,” Thad Motta said. “I mean, that was a hard fought basketball game. I thought both teams were exhausted.
“The defense was as good as it could possibly be, but great, great win for our program, great win for our university ... I’m elated.”
Courtesy of its win Sunday, Ohio State is 22-9 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes’ four titles are the most of any team in the conference.
The Badgers, on the other hand, were right in the mix until the end despite going without a field goal over the final seven minutes.
“I thought we had a chance to run the gauntlet, but just didn’t have quite enough in us,” Ryan said. “But I really liked the way we got after it. We paid for the miscues, and we still have to make shots, man.”
Frank Kaminsky put together quite a first half for the Badgers. The former Benet Academy star came off the bench and was 2-for-2 from the floor, including a 3-pointer, and added a steal and a rebound in eight minutes of action. Kaminsky’s 5 points led all Wisconsin scorers in the opening 20 minutes.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.