INDIANAPOLIS- Ohio State University began the season 23-0 and expectations for them winning the national championship accelerated. After winning the Big Ten regular season championship, the Buckeyes players still had another goal to accomplish, win the tournament this weekend.
The Penn State University Nittany Lions were the only team standing in the Buckeyes’ way in Big Ten tournament championship game. After defeating Penn State twice this season, Ohio State (32-2, 16-2 Big Ten) needed another victory over the Nittany Lions to win another title and head into the NCAA tournament with momentum.
They came into the Big Ten tournament as the nation’s No. 1 team and were able to win another championship by downing the Penn State University Nittany Lions (19-14, 9-9 Big Ten) 71-60.
As the No.1 team, the Buckeyes took its best shots from opponents that wanted nothing more than to knock them off. With the Nittany Lions trying to win their first conference title, Ohio State was still able to counter Penn State’s offensive attack at the Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Buckeyes were led by guard Jon DIebler, who scored 15 points, and freshman forward Jared Sullinger, who had another double-double, 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Penn State was unable to keep pace with Ohio State in the second half after trailing the Buckeyes 29-23 at halftime.
“Ohio State is a very good team, they guard you,” said Penn State Head Coach Ed Dechillis. “They made some big shots. The shot before the half was a big shot by Jon Diebler, kind of got them a little momentum”
With seconds ticking off the clock in the first half, Diebler hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer and extended the Buckeyes’ lead from three to six.
The Buckeyes used a balanced defensive attack against the Nittany Lions limiting them to 22 points in the paint and shooting 39 percent from the field.
“I thought our guys did a tremendous job of weathering the storm of Penn State’s runs today,” said Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta.
The Buckeyes received the overall No.1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament and will face the winner of the University of Texas-San Antonio and Alabama State University game.
Ohio State was led all season by seniors Diebler, David Lighty, William Bufford and the freshman of the year, Sullinger.
Sullinger will being playing his first NCAA tournament but said he knows the importance of each game moving forward.
“It’s one and done now,” Sullinger said. “You’ve just got to take it one game at a time and focus on your opponent.”
Matta said his team was mentally prepared for the ups and downs of the regular season. Coming into an opponent’s arena as the top team in the country puts an immediate target on a team’s back.
“They came ready to play now for 34 games,” Matta said. “The hardest thing I think I found this year was the effort teams give to beat you each night.”
The Buckeyes last appeared in the national championship game in 2007 when they lost to the University of Florida. Ohio State has had well performing teams since that have won Big Ten championships and had high seeds in the NCAA tournament. Matta said he wants his team to know they have to prove they’re champions to their opponents.
“In terms of our program, we’ve been there seven years now, and we’ve been a No. 1 seed twice and we’ve been a 2 seed twice, and to get the overall No. 1, I think it’s a great honor now,” Matta said. “As I’ll tell those guys, when we get back to Columbus, it’s not only score a point for us or get a rebound for us, now you’ve got to go out and defend it.”