No. 3 Illinois beats No. 9 Ohio State to take Big Ten title

Ohio State basketball

They didn't win the title, but the Buckeyes over-performed their No. 5 seed and should have cemented a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament

Ohio State guard Duane Washington Jr. (4) shoots over Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) in an NCAA college basketball championship game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 14, 2021.

Ohio State guard Duane Washington Jr. (4) shoots over Illinois center Kofi Cockburn (21) in an NCAA college basketball championship game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: No, they didn’t win the title, but the Buckeyes over-performed 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.

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