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Dials leads No. 8 Buckeyes to outright Big Ten title

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- No one can overlook Ohio State now.

Terence Dials scored 20 points and the ninth-ranked Buckeyes
broke the game open with a 14-2 blitz to start the second half to
beat Purdue 76-57 on Sunday, clinching their first outright Big Ten
title in 14 years.

Dogged by a lingering NCAA investigation involving people no
longer with the program, and coming the year before a banner
recruiting class, Ohio State never was mentioned when the talk
turned to preseason favorites in the Big Ten.

"No one gave us a chance," Dials said. "People across the
country forgot about the Buckeyes it seemed. We didn't get the
credit we thought we deserved. We wanted to go out and prove a lot
of naysayers wrong."

J.J. Sullinger had 16 points for the Buckeyes (23-4, 12-4), who
have won their last five games and are the top seed for this week's
Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. Jamar Butler added 15 points.

"We've kind of flown under the radar to this point," Sullinger
said, referring to the Buckeyes' late appearance in and slow rise
in the polls. "But you've got to remember Ohio State now when you
talk about (national) contenders."

In the waning moments, with the outcome long decided, the Ohio
State student section chanted, "Big Ten champs!" and "Thank you,
seniors."

"It's a great life lesson for these guys," second-year coach
Thad Matta said. "If you commit to something and stay the course,
anything's possible."

Despite a dreadful shooting day -- he missed his first 11 shots
from the field -- Je'Kel Foster contributed eight points, eight
rebounds, five assists and five steals -- and got the loudest
reception when he left the game with a minute and a half left.

The Buckeyes have prospered with a lineup that includes three
fifth-year players and another senior who always seemed to make
plays when most needed.

"It was a good day to be a Buckeye," Sullinger said. "It was
an even better day to be a senior."

The Buckeyes were eighth, ninth and sixth the last three years
in the conference.

The outright title is the school's first since Jim Jackson was
the star in 1992 -- and only the second since 1971. It also marked
the first time a Big Ten school has captured outright titles in
men's and women's basketball in the same season.

Gary Ware scored 25 points for Purdue (9-18, 3-13), which lost
four in a row to finish last in the Big Ten for the first time in
40 years.

Boilermakers coach Matt Painter offered his congratulations to
the Buckeyes.

"They got picked fifth or sixth," he said of preseason
predictions. "Who cares about the rankings? These guys proved
it."

The Buckeyes held a tenuous four-point lead to start the second
half but quickly sprinted away. Sullinger opened the half by
hitting a 13-foot fallaway before Dials scored over Ware. Sullinger
then dunked off a fast break assist from Matt Sylvester.

After Matt Kiefer scored for the Boilermakers, Sullinger had a
three-point play after a behind-the-back pass from Foster that
brought the capacity crowd of 18,500 to its feet.

Foster finally banged in a 3-pointer and Dials scored inside,
and all of a sudden it was 49-33.

"I knew we had to come out of the gate and jump on Purdue,"
Foster said. "We had to turn up our defensive pressure."

Matta addressed the crowd after the Big Ten trophy was presented
to his players.

"I asked these guys to help lay the foundation for the future
of this program," he said at midcourt. "It looks pretty damned
good to me right now."