INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Ohio State rode its backcourt to the Big Ten Conference championship game.
Brian Brown scored a career-high 27 points and Brent Darby added 23 as the 17th-ranked Buckeyes advanced to the title game with a 94-88 victory over No. 15 Illinois.
Ohio State (22-7) will meet cinderella Iowa for the championship on Sunday. The Buckeyes won both meetings from Iowa during the regular season.
Brown and Darby carried the Buckeyes all afternoon, combining to make 14-of-24 shots from floor. The duo also accounted for five of the Buckeyes' seven 3-pointers and went a combined 18-of-20 from the line.
"I thought they (teammates) did a great job of moving the ball and getting it to the players that could score in good position," Darby said.
"To state the obvious, this is a terrific win for our guys," said Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien, who picked up his 100th win at the school. "I just really wanted to single out our guys because I thought they played with a lot of character and heart." Brian Cook scored 22 points and Frank Williams 18 for Illinois (24-8), which had a nine-game winning streak stopped.
Brown ignited what proved to be decisive 14-3 spurt, making a pair of foul shots to give the Buckeyes a 67-65 lead with 9:15 remaining.
Boban Savovic followed with a 3-pointer and two foul shots. Savovic had another 3-pointer, capping the burst that gave Ohio State its biggest lead of the contest at 79-68 with 5:44 remaining.
But the Illini, who erased a 10-point deficit in the final three minutes to win at Minnesota last Sunday, attempted to mount another rally.
Robert Archibald had seven points and Sean Harrington made a jumper in the lane, capping a 15-6 run to pull the Illini within 85-83 with 2:24 to play. Archibald finished with 16 points.
Illinois was able to hang around in the second half, despite the Buckeyes shooting a blistering 68 percent (15-of-22) from the field. The Illini shot 55 percent (16-of-29) in the half.
"This was a fun game to watch from a spectator standpoint," Illinois coach Bill Self said. "Defensively we didn't guard them very well and they just whipped us." After having their lead cut to two, the Buckeyes responded as Brown made a layup and, after a turnover by Illinois, Darby sank a pair of foul shots for an 89-83 advantage with 1:23 to go.
A turnaround jumper by Cook and 1-of-2 foul shots from Williams brought the Illini within 89-86 with 39 seconds left. But Brown made four free throws in the final 32 seconds as the Buckeyes held on.
Zach Williams added 16 points for the Buckeyes, who shot 57 percent (30-of-53). He also grabbed 13 rebounds to help Ohio State to a 29-25 edge on the boards.
Frank Williams, who went scoreless in Friday's quarterfinal win, sank two foul shots with eight minutes left in the first half to give Illinois its biggest lead of the contest at 28-20.
Ohio State used pulled closed to 35-33 with 2:45 left in the half on a foul shot by Sean Connolly. Darby made a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the half to give the Buckeyes a 41-40 lead heading to intermission.