Saturday marks the penultimate day of action at the 2021 Big Ten men's basketball tournament, with four Top 10 teams in action vying for the opportunity to play for an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Ohio State and Michigan played the first semifinal game of the day. The Wolverines won the lone regular-season meeting between the two teams, 92-87, on Feb. 21.
The main event of the day features a Top Five clash between No. 3 Illinois and No. 5 Iowa. The Illini got 49 combined points from Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier in an 80-75 victory on Jan. 29 when Iowa was in the midst of four losses in five games.
2021 Big Ten Tournament Semifinal Results
No. 9 Ohio State def. No. 4 Michigan: 68-67
No. 3 Illinois def. No. 5 Iowa: 82-71
2021 Big Ten Tournament Final Schedule
No. 9 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Illinois
Date: Sunday, March 14
Start Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
No. 3 Illinois 82, No. 5 Iowa 71
Illinois continues to roll through the Big Ten tournament after an 82-71 win over Iowa in the second semifinal game Saturday.
The Hawkeyes did come out of the gate strong with a 14-13 lead after five minutes. Illinois went on a 9-0 run in the span of two minutes to go up by eight points. The Illini didn't look back from that point on to reach the Big Ten title game for the first time since 2008.
In a matchup between two of the best centers in the country, Illinois' Kofi Cockburn got the best of Iowa's Luka Garza. The Illini star scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half and grabbed eight rebounds.
Garza did finish with 21 points, but he shot just 8-of-21 from the field and missed each of his three three-point attempts. The Hawkeyes big man did lead all players with 12 rebounds.
Dosunmu had a huge game in the win with 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. He also had this highlight-reel dunk early in the second half to put Illinois up by 13.
Iowa did get within three points a couple of times late in the first half, but it was never able to catch all the way up against Illinois' defense. The Illini held their Big Ten rivals to just 40.6 percent shooting overall and 8-of-24 from three-point range.
Fast-paced offense and swarming defense has been Illinois' formula for success during its current six-game winning streak. The team has averaged 80.2 points per game and is outscoring opponents by 13.7 points during this stretch.
One more win on Sunday will likely wrap up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for Illinois. It will have to beat Ohio State to do so. The teams split two regular-season games, with the Illini beating the Buckeyes 73-68 on March 6.
No. 9 Ohio State 68, No. 4 Michigan 67
Ohio State held off a late rally by Michigan to earn a 68-67 win on Saturday, despite not scoring in the last 1:55 of the second half.
Justice Sueing put the Buckeyes up 68-60 with a free throw with less than two minutes remaining. They proceeded to commit three turnovers on their last three possessions to give Michigan an opportunity to win at the end.
The Wolverines had possession with 29 seconds remaining and trailing by one after a CJ Walker turnover. Rather than go for a quick shot, Mike Smith held the ball for 15 seconds after crossing the halfcourt line before setting up the final play.
Smith's step-back three-point attempt hit off the back of the rim and the ball bounced around as time expired.
Michigan had a bad day on offense overall, making just 35.1 percent of its field-goal attempts. The Wolverines were able to keep the game close in large part because of their ability to draw fouls. They had a 23-14 advantage over Ohio State in attempts from the charity stripe and made 21 of them.
After getting 23 points from the bench Friday against Maryland, Michigan's reserves had just nine points Saturday.
Duane Washington Jr. had his best game of the tournament at the right time. The Buckeyes junior finished with 24 points on 5-of-10 shooting from three-point range, six rebounds and four assists. His layup with 3:19 remaining put Ohio State up 67-56 and was the team's last field goal of the day.
Three-point shooting was crucial for Ohio State in the win. It made 12 of its 22 attempts from behind the arc. By contrast, the Buckeyes made just 12 of 35 attempts from two-point range.
Michigan is still comfortably in the NCAA tournament field as an at-large selection despite the loss. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Big Ten regular-season champs as a No. 1 seed in his most recent bracketology update.
This marks Ohio State's first trip to the Big Ten Championship game since 2013, when Aaron Craft led the team to a 50-43 win over Wisconsin.