Buckeyes Hold Off Badgers

Associated Press
Monday, March 12, 2007

CHICAGO, March 11 -- No. 1 Ohio State captured the Big Ten tournament championship. Now it can focus on the big prize.

Mike Conley scored 18 points, Ron Lewis added 17 and the Buckeyes beat No. 3 Wisconsin, 66-49, on Sunday to capture their second tournament title.

The Buckeyes then learned they have the top seed in the South Region and will face Central Connecticut State on Thursday in Lexington, Ky. Wisconsin got the second seed in the Midwest and a matchup with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday at United Center.

Greg Oden finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds after playing just six minutes in the first half, but Conley and Lewis did enough to lift Ohio State (30-3) to its 17th straight victory. Conley had eight assists and six rebounds, and Lewis was 6 of 12, including 2 of 4 on three-pointers.

Big Ten player of the year Alando Tucker missed his first six shots for Wisconsin and finished with 10 points. He was 4 of 13 from the field. Kammron Taylor scored 15, but went just 6 of 18. The Badgers (29-5) never found their stroke, going 21 of 57 overall and 4 of 23 on three-pointers. They also committed 17 turnovers.

"They have a lot of athletes on that team, and they like to get up and down," Taylor said. "I think the first two times that we played them, we kind of controlled that, and we let it get away from us. Today, we allowed them to get out and get on a break, and it caught up with us."

The Buckeyes and Badgers will be among the favorites to win the NCAA tournament. They split two nail-biters during the regular season, but this time the drama ended with about 6 1/2 minutes remaining.

With the score 48-40, Ohio State's Jamar Butler retrieved a loose ball near midcourt after having it knocked away and buried a three-pointer from beyond NBA range with about three seconds left on the shot clock and 6 minutes 35 seconds remaining in the game. Ron Lewis all but punctuated the victory two minutes later with a breakaway dunk after catching a long pass from Conley that made it 57-45.

The Badgers were unable to sustain a run.

Down 34-23 early in the second half, Wisconsin scored six straight. Taylor's pull-up jumper drew a loud reaction from the large contingent of Badgers fans, and the volume increased when Marcus Landry dunked in transition to cut it to 34-29. Ohio State called time, and the Wisconsin faithful chanted, "Let's go red!"

Instead, they stalled.

There were no late runs, no theatrics, unlike the first two meetings between these teams. Wisconsin hung on for a 72-69 victory Jan. 9 in Madison, Wis., as Butler missed a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Buckeyes returned the favor Feb. 25 in Columbus, Ohio, winning on Conley's runner in the lane with four seconds left to clinch their second straight regular-season conference title.

This time, Wisconsin was fortunate to stay within striking range until the latter stages.

The Badgers trailed 26-20 at halftime, but it could have been much worse as they went seven minutes without a point early on, hit just 9 of 27 shots and committed 12 turnovers.

It helped that Oden, the Buckeyes' star, spent most of the half on the sideline and did not attempt a shot.

After averaging 19.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in the first two tournament games, he got called for a charge just over a minute into this one and went to the sideline about three minutes later after hitting the floor while going for an offensive rebound. He reentered the game midway through the half, but spent the final 7:03 on the sideline after picking up his second foul.

Tucker finally got going after Conley hit a three-pointer that stretched Ohio State's lead to 21-11 with just over four minutes left in the half, converting two quick putbacks and hitting 1 of 2 free throws. He scored on a layup with 34 seconds left, giving him seven points on 3-of-9 shooting.

"I think what happened was the quickness of Conley with the ball and Oden being such a presence inside, there's two pretty big factors of why things turned out the way they did," Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan said.

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