Ohio State Falls To Illinois, 91-88, In Overtime Of Big Ten Tournament Championship Game

By Colin Hass-Hill on March 14, 2021 at 6:07 pm
Duane Washington Jr.

INDIANAPOLIS – Ohio State beat Minnesota. It eked by Purdue in overtime. It took down its archrival in Michigan.

Team 1 2 OT FINAL
#5 OHIO STATE 35 42 11 88
#2 ILLINOIS 40 37 14 91

But, despite coming back from a 17-point deficit and forcing overtime, it couldn't complete the Big Ten tournament with a win. Illinois got the better of the Buckeyes, 91-88, in Sunday's conference tournament championship game that ended after a five-minute overtime.

A pair of foul shots from Kofi Cockburn in overtime gave the Buckeyes an 82-81 edge with a minute and a half left in overtime. But E.J. Liddell slipped and turned it over, putting the ball back in Illinois' hands with one minute left, and Andre Curbelo's subsequent bucket gave Illinois a three-point advantage with 47.2 seconds remaining. Ohio State called a timeout, setting up an action, but Justice Sueing threw the ball away to turn it over with 39.7 ticks left. Curbelo's free throws put Illinois ahead, 86-81, then Cockburn hit one of two foul shots to put Illinois up by six. A 3-pointer from Seth Towns with 15.8 seconds on the clock made it 87-84, Illini. Ayo Dosunmu's foul shots put them up by five with seven seconds left, and Towns' free throws chopped it to three a couple seconds later.

Six Illini players scored in double figures. Duane Washington Jr. had a career-high 32 points. Liddell, a Belleville, Illinois native, finished with 12 points.  Sueing had 22 points.

Even reaching overtime, the Buckeyes needed some clutch plays – namely one from Sueing.

E.J. Liddell cut Ohio State's deficit to a single point with a fast-break dunk with 57 seconds left. Yet the Illini came right back down the court to go ahead, 77-74, on a Da'Monte Williams bucket. Sueing completed an and-one with 23 seconds to go, tying it up at 77 points apiece. That, though, gave Illinois the ball with a chance to win it.

Dosunmu rose to attempt a step-back triple with four ticks remaining, missed, and Liddell somehow swatted Cockburn's attempted put-back layup to send this game to overtime.

To get to that point, Ohio State – after a first-half deficit that nearly reached 20 points – had pulled within two points of the Illini on Justice Sueing's free throws with 14:48 left. But a 10-1 run from the No. 2 seed put Illinois ahead, 57-46, with 12 minutes to go. Once more, the Buckeyes charged back, this time trimming the deficit to a single point due to CJ Walker's and-one with 7:59 left, setting up one heck of a finish.

The first half, however, quite nearly didn't allow Ohio State to be in position to make the second half competitive whatsoever. The Buckeyes made one shot from the field in the first 11 and a half minutes, relying almost entirely on shots from the foul stripe while falling behind by 17 points.

88 POINTS 91
29-65 (44.6%) FGM-FGA (PCT.) 29-64 (45.3%)
8-25 (32.0%) 3PM-3PA (PCT.) 9-21 (42.9%)
22-30 (73.3%) FTM-FTA (PCT.) 24-32 (75.0%)

Chris Holtmann, standing just beside his bench, turned around and took a step toward those seated to his left. He made eye contact with Jake Diebler and opened his arms as if to say, “What was that?” The second-year assistant coach tilted his head, seemingly saying, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Ayo Dosunmo had just hit a pull-up jumper from the elbow without much of a contest from Washington, putting Illinois up, 27-10, in a game that had the undermanned Ohio State fans scattered throughout Lucas Oil Stadium making plenty of similar gestures to those made by Holtmann and Diebler. A little over 10 minutes into the game, it felt like it was quickly slipping away.

Washington had other ideas.

His layup with 8:27 left sparked a 25-13 Ohio State run to end the first half down five instead of the 17 points it once was behind by. In those eight and a half minutes, Washington scored 14 points, accounting for six of his team's 11 made field goals.

The 40-35 halftime deficit left them plenty to work with in the second half, getting within three points after their first offensive possession and two points a few minutes later.

Next up: We'll know soon. The Selection Sunday show begins after the game.

Other Notes

  • Kyle Young missed his second straight game due to a concussion. It's unclear how long it'll take until he returns to the court, either for games or practices. 
  • Chris Holtmann stuck with the same starting five he used the prior game: Duane Washington Jr., Justin Ahrens, Justice Sueing, Musa Jallow and E.J. Liddell. CJ Walker would typically start, but he asked to come off the bench prior to the Big Ten tournament.
  • This was Holtmann's first-ever opportunity to coach in a conference championship game. He had never won more than one game in a conference tournament until this year.
  • The Buckeyes and Illini played three games this season ahead of the NCAA tournament. Ohio State won the first meeting, 87-81, in Champaign, then fell, 73-68, in Columbus before Sunday's meeting.
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