INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- J.J. Sullinger reveled in his temporary
rock-star image Saturday -- even if the cotton over his left eye
looked out of place.
After scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, Sullinger
high-stepped his way off the court playing air guitar for the Ohio
State fans. The seventh-ranked Buckeyes can only hope the
celebration didn't come one day early.
Matt Sylvester scored on a layup with 37.4 seconds left, Indiana
missed two chances to win it and Sullinger grabbed the final
rebound to help Ohio State hang on for a 52-51 victory over Indiana
in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
"It came down to the last play of the game and you can't really
say that's how you want it to go down," Sullinger said. "But to
win this game was huge for us and it makes us feel good about
Good enough for a dance apparently.
After Marco Killingsworth missed a 5-foot hook shot, and
Roderick Wilmont missed a 7-foot jumper off the front of the rim,
Sullinger grabbed the rebound, swung his arms around and kicked his
leg up as he walked off the court.
It showed how much this game meant to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes (25-4) won their seventh straight and reached their
first tournament title game since 2003. They now have a chance to
join Illinois and Michigan State as two-time winners when they face
No. 20 Iowa, a 53-48 winner over the Spartans, on Sunday.
They also solidified their seeding position for the NCAA
tournament, one day after receiving three years of probation for
Plus, they avenged an 81-79 loss in Bloomington in January by
handing the Hoosiers (18-11) their first loss in six game.
And, as usual, this one came with the same intense, physical
style that has characterized the rivalry in recent seasons.
From the early moments, Big Ten player of the Year Terence Dials
and Indiana forward Marco Killingsworth traded jabs, elbows and
barbs. During the first timeout, official Mike Sanzere walked over
to Dials and told him to tone down the talking.
"It definitely was physical," Dials said. "This was a
tournament atmosphere, it's just going to get us better prepared
for the NCAA tournament."
The battle of the big bodies was a virtual draw. Dials finished
with 13 points, five rebounds and three blocks, while Killingsworth
had 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Their teammates, however, got the message.
With Ohio State and Indiana mired in a defensive slugfest,
Wilmont delivered the counterpunch off the bench. He finished with
16 points to lead the Hoosiers.
But nobody backed down.
Early in the second half, Sullinger was grazed across the left
eye, a cut that forced him to come out while trainers bandaged it
up. With 3:06 left, Indiana swingman Robert Vaden crashed to the
floor with a left ankle injury. Two teammates helped him off the
court, but coach Mike Davis said he would be ready to play next
week in what the Hoosiers hope will be an NCAA tournament game.
When Saturday's contest ended, Wilmont also lay on the floor
holding his head -- although that was more out of disappointment
"We got two good looks," Wilmont said. "I think I tried to
rush it because I didn't know how much time was left on the clock,
and I just missed it. I thought it was going in."
It was that kind of game.
After a tough first half for both teams, Indiana led 26-25.
Then Sullinger started mixing it up. He opened the second half
by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers before completing a three-point
play that gave Ohio State a 34-28 lead with 16:00 left.
The Buckeyes extended their lead to as much as 47-38 with 8:34
to go, but the Hoosiers rallied by holding Ohio State scoreless for
nearly five minutes. They eventually tied the score at 47 on Earl
Calloway's three-point play with 3:47 left.
"Guys played with their hearts and people forgot how tired they
were," guard Marshall Strickland.
Indiana reclaimed the lead when Wilmont drove the baseline for a
layup with 1:50 left, but neither team could make anything until
Sylvester broke free down low and Dials hit him with a nifty pass
for the go-ahead layup with 37.4 seconds left.
Sylvester has a penchant for hitting winning shots, but this
time he credited Dials for the play.
"I've been giving him assists here for five years now, so it's
about time he gave me one," Sylvester said.
The Hoosiers went back to Killingsworth, but his short hook
bounced off the rim. Wilmont grabbed the rebound, pivoted and
missed the 7-footer, and Sullinger grabbed the rebound to start the
"You just try to do everything that you're capable of doing,
and I had no idea I had a double-double," Sullinger said. "It's
just trying to go hard to the boards every time and shoot the ball
when you get the chance."