The chance for a third Big Ten title in four years, and a two seed in the NCAA Tournament are on the line for No. 10 Ohio State as the Buckeyes face upset-minded No. 22 Wisconsin Sunday afternoon at the United Center.
Ohio State’s late surge against Michigan State led to a 61-58 victory and its fifth straight appearance in the title game. Guard Aaron Craft scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, and junior forward Deshaun Thomas totaled 16 points and seven rebounds.
Craft also recorded nine assists and four steals, while the Buckeyes forced 12 Spartan turnovers. Known more for his smothering defense, it was the third time this season Craft scored 20 or more points. For the year, the junior is averaging 9.9 points and 4.7 assists.
The Buckeyes are currently enjoying a seven-game winning streak, and Thomas has averaged 17.7 points and 6.4 rebounds during the run. Previously, Ohio State went through a rough 1-3 slide with back-to-back losses to Michigan and Indiana, but has proven its mettle since.
Wisconsin was the last team to beat Ohio State, in a 71-49 throttling on Feb. 17. The Badgers were on fire, shooting 52.7 percent from the field, with Jared Berggren and Ben Brust each scoring 15 points.
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6-foot-7 freshman forward Sam Dekker contributed 13 points off the bench, and was 3-for-5 from downtown.
The Badgers recycled that winning formula against Indiana in their 68-56 semifinal victory Saturday.
Brust, Berggren, and Dekker each scored in the double-digits, but senior forward Ryan Evans shined the brightest. Going 7-for-12 from the field, Evans tallied 16 points and eight rebounds, and accounted for four of Wisconsin’s 10 blocks in the game.
It was Wisconsin’s second win over Indiana this season, and their 12th straight versus the Hoosiers since 2007.
The fourth seed in this year's tournament, the Badgers last won the Big Ten title game in 2008, and could be the lowest seed to win it all since sixth-seeded Iowa in 2001.
The game tips-off at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by CBS, or you can watch their live online stream at CBS Sports here.
Betting Odds: Ohio State is favored by 1 point.
Prediction: Craft vs. Brust and Evans vs. Thomas are the key matchups. This will be a slow paced game that comes down to rebounding and free throw shooting. Look for the Buckeyes to pull away late.
Predicted Score: Ohio State 60, Wisconsin 58