If you like hard-nosed, gritty, defensive basketball, then this year's 2013 Big Ten tournament championship game between No. 10 Ohio State and No. 22 Wisconsin was for you.
Ohio State lost to Wisconsin by 22 points in late February, but hasn't lost since in a trend that continued on Sunday afternoon. The Buckeyes played to their strengths and defended the three-point line well en route to the school's fourth Big Ten tournament championship, 50-43.
Led by Deshaun Thomas' 17 points, the Buckeyes struggled to get things going on offense. Wisconsin's defense kept Ohio State at bay for most of the afternoon, characterized by the fact that no other Buckeye finished in double figures.
On the flip side, Ohio State's defense was even better.
Only one Wisconsin starter scored in double figures (Traevon Jackson with 10), and the Buckeyes held Ryan Evans, Ben Brust and Jared Berggren to a combined 14 points in a dominating defensive performance. Wisconsin, who thrives on the three, finished 3-of-18 from downtown.
Ohio State was even worse from downtown (1-of-16), but it played to its strengths down the stretch and ended up getting big baskets from Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross that sealed the deal.
Wisconsin was a surprise participant in the title game; many had projected higher-seeded Indiana to meet either Ohio State or Michigan State in the championship game.
The Buckeyes and the Badgers didn't disappoint in their stead, trading blows throughout and reminding us all that there is still more than one way to play the game of basketball and have significant success.
Ohio State's game, which relies more on athleticism, came in stark contrast to Wisconsin's methodical, slower-paced game on Sunday afternoon, but it still produced a game that showed the rest of the country that both of these teams will be dangerous competitors in the NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes will now enter the NCAA tournament on a high note, certainly with a chance to advance to the Final Four in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
ESPN's Dan Dakich gets this Twitter reaction going with some striking numbers for Ohio State fans when looking at potential tournament matchups. As usual, it starts and ends with Craft for the Buckeyes:
Dan Dakich @dandakich
Big 10 fans..when Aaron Craft has 6 pts and 4 asts OSU is 18-0..when he scores 12pts OSU 11-1 when he has 4 or more asts 22-1...3/17/2013, 6:09:10 PM
The section wouldn't be complete without some Bo Ryan talk. Here's one from the school's men's basketball Twitter account, with Ryan's words for his team heading out of the locker room after halftime:
Wisconsin Basketball @BadgerMBB
Last thing #Badgers coach Bo Ryan said to the team at half: "You're 20 minutes from a title men. Go out there and earn it."3/17/2013, 8:30:01 PM
On the flip side, on-court interviews with Ryan leave some feeling like Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler:
Aaron Nagler @AaronNagler
Bo Ryan makes Bill Belichick seem all warm and fuzzy.3/17/2013, 8:13:42 PM
NBC Sports writer Patrick Daugherty had quite the interesting tweet on what kind of players Ryan is looking for on the recruiting trail this summer:
Patrick Daugherty @RotoPat
"White guy with afro hits three" is Wisconsin's mission statement.3/17/2013, 8:31:55 PM
Aaron Craft, Ohio State — B
Craft didn't have a particularly great day from the field (4-of-9 for nine points), but he made the most of his opportunities on the defensive end.
As mentioned in the Twitter section, this guy is the heart and soul of the Buckeyes. Much like Victor Oladipo of Indiana, his contributions go far beyond the box score, and a nifty move for a reverse layup late in the second half helped put the Buckeyes in position to pull away from Wisconsin.
Jared Berggren, Wisconsin — D
For a guy that averages 11 points and six rebounds per game, Berggren looked tentative and didn't command the ball when he had obvious mismatches against Thad Motta's small lineup.
He finished with just two points in 23 minutes, was ineffective on offense and forced Ryan to look elsewhere for offensive help.
Berggren has to play better (along with the rest of the team's shooters) for the Badgers to have a chance in the dance.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State — B+
Thomas is a gifted scorer, a matchup problem and plays good defense, and it's a shame he doesn't get more attention as one of the best players in college basketball.
He led the Buckeyes in scoring (17) yet again on Sunday, made free throws late to seal the deal and added seven rebounds for good measure. Thomas might not get as much credit as Craft or the other studs in the Big Ten, but he's a clutch performer that is extremely versatile—adjectives that make for a dangerous defensive assignment in March.
Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin — C
The starting point guard for the Badgers is a big reason why Ryan and company have a shot to make a deep run this postseason.
That being said, he's also volatile at times, looks for his own shot and deviates from Ryan's plan when a crease opens up. He took two shots late that weren't in the flow of the offense, but he did lead the team in scoring.
For the Badgers to win games against solid teams, guys have to make perimeter shots. They didn't (38.3 percent shooting overall), and Jackson must be more effective running this offense for Wisconsin to make a push next week.
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