Illinois Edges Ohio State in OT to Win 1st Big Ten Tournament Title Since 2005

Jenna CiccotelliAnalyst IIMarch 14, 2021

Illinois' Andre Curbelo, left, Ayo Dosunmu, center and Kofi Cockburn (21) hug as they leave the court following a 82-71 win over Iowa in an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

In its first Big Ten championship game since 2008, Illinois took home its third conference championship with a 91-88 overtime victory over fifth-seeded Ohio State.

The win was the fourth defeat of a Top 10 opponent in Illinois' last five games. 

Kofi Cockburn, who ended the day with 16 points, hit two free throws in the final minute of overtime to give the Illini a one-point lead, then Andre Curbelo hit a jumper to give Illinois a three-point lead that would propel them to the finish. 

CBS Sports @CBSSports

Curbelo = Clutch https://t.co/FQkYA1zSZl

For Ohio State, who upset No. 1 Michigan on Saturday to earn a spot in the title game and battled back from a 17-point deficit to force overtime, Duane Washington Jr. led with 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting from the field, including 5-of-10 from three. 


Notable Performers

  • Duane Washington Jr., Ohio State: 32 PTS, 8 REB
  • Justice Sueing, Ohio State: 22 PTS
  • Andre Curbelo, Illinois: 16 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST
  • Kofi Cockburn, Illinois: 16 PTS, 9 REB


Illinois Stars Struggle Through Second Half

The Fighting Illini had a strong showing against Iowa on Saturday, upending No. 3 Iowa 82-71. That was made possible because of the squad's major stars—big man Kofi Cockburn scored 26 points and tacked on eight boards, while Ayo Dosunmu flirted with a double-double, grabbing 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

As expected, Cockburn and Dosunmu led the squad through the first half, with 11 points from Cockburn coupled with seven from Dosunmu, who also grabbed seven boards and five rebounds to give the Fighting Illini a 40-35 lead at the break. 

But the Buckeyes shut both players down in the second half, as Cockburn tallied just two points and Dosunmu was good for just six points after the break.

In the extra period, it was all Curbelo, who posted six of his 16 points in the final five minutes. 

Fouls proved to be the difference-maker at the end, as the Illini staved off a mounting Buckeyes comeback with 10-of-11 shooting from the line in the second half as the Buckeyes were whistled for 10 personal fouls. 

The Illini have certainly been tested over the past few games in a tough conference, but the opponents will hardly get any easier heading into March. 


Ohio State's Late Collapses Catch Up

The Buckeyes overcame a series of tough opponents to reach the championship game, capped by top-seeded Michigan on Saturday. That game came after defeats of Purdue and Minnesota. 

And while OSU was the winner in the end, a closer look at the final minutes of each of those three games reveals that wasn't a sure-fire victory. Against Michigan, the Buckeyes held a 13-point lead with 4:19 to play, then held their breath as Mike Smith went up for a jumper that would have won it, eventually coming away with a one-point win.

Similarly, with 5:26 to go against Purdue in the quarterfinals, a nine-point lead evaporated, and OSU had to break out of a tie for an overtime win. Against Minnesota in the second round, the Buckeyes were up by 14 with 3:25 remaining before Minnesota brought it within one point before an OSU victory. 

On Sunday, it was a different story—in the first half, at least. 

The Buckeyes were down 27-10 at the 9:46 mark of the first half, but they built a comeback in the impending minutes and used a 15-6 run in the final 4:23 of the half to get within five at the break. The scoring was all Duane Washington Jr., who posted 15 points in the first half as the game's leading scorer.

Justice Sueing posted nine points behind him. 

The comeback reached its head as the clock wound down, with the Buckeyes grabbing their first lead of the game with 5:36 to play, when Ohio State went up 67-65. It was a strong outing after a tumultuous first half, as the Buckeyes improved their 39.3 shooting percentage from the first half to a 53.6 percent mark in the second frame. 

Washington ended the night with 32 points, hitting five of 10 shots from deep, while Sueing grabbed 22 points.  

Andy Katz @TheAndyKatz

Andre Curbelo is having his March moments this week in Indy and it will likely continue @marchmadness. He has been the unsung MVP of @IlliniMBB. Remember, he came to Illinois probably thinking originally Ayo Dosunmu would be gone to the NBA. Adapted. Found his role. Thrived.

After forcing overtime, they managed to hold the Illini scoreless for most of it. Illinois was held scoreless from the field for 3:37 of overtime. 

With turnovers on back-to-back possessions, Ohio State made room for the Illini to seal the overtime win. 

The Buckeyes able to break the second-half spell that overcame them for their last few outings, and they'll have to carry that into March if they want to compete late into the tournament. 


What's Next? 

Both teams await their fate for the NCAA tournament, with Selection Sunday beginning at 6 p.m. ET.