CHICAGO (Ticker) -- The third time was a charm for Illinois.
Displaying their balance and inside-outside game, the 13th-ranked Fighting Illini posted a 72-59 victory over Ohio State for their first-ever Big Ten tournament championship.
Illinois (24-6) previously lost in the Big Ten title game in 1999 and 2000, but pulled away late in the first half and led by as many as 22 points in the second half.
Brian Cook is the senior leader with the strong inside game and scored 15 points to earn tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. He had 25 points in Illinois' 73-72 semifinal win over Indiana on Saturday.
Roger Powell led the Fighting Illini with 16 points and freshman James Augustine and Sean Harrington added 12 apiece.
"Everyone played well today. We needed a team effort to beat Ohio State," Powell said. "Hopefully, our effort will carry over into the NCAA Tournament next week."
Participating in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year, Illinois is the fourth seed in a power-packed West region, which features Arizona, Kansas and Duke.
"Winning this championship was a goal, but I don't know if we helped ourselves seeding-wise," Illinois coach Bill Self said. "But we did help ourselves from a confidence standpoint."
The loss was devastating for Ohio State (17-14), which won the Big Ten tournament last season and needed to do so again to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
Brent Darby led the Buckeyes with 27 points.
"I got a little winded, but that is what happens when you play a team like Illinois," Darby said. "It was a tough loss. We worked really hard all week and it hurts to lose in the championship game."
Playing four games in four days took a toll on eighth-seeded Ohio State, which shot just 26 percent in the first half and 36 percent for the game.
Illinois' trio of Cook, Powell and Augustine outscored Ohio State's frontline, 43-16. Seven-foot center Velimir Radinovic was the only effective inside player for the Buckeyes with 12 points.
"Illinois slows you down with Augustine, and Cook is always in your hands and in your face," said Boston College coach Jim O'Brien."
Harrington provided a major boost off the bench, converting 4-of-5 3-pointers.
Harrington hit a pair of 3-pointers and Powell had a layup and three free throws as Illinois raced to a 22-15 lead in the first 11 1/2 minutes.
After Darby connected on a jumper with 7:53 left, Illinois went on an 11-3 run as the Buckeyes endured nearly a seven-minute drought without a field goal. Powell ignited the spurt with a layup and Cook capped it with a free throw, giving Illinois a 33-20 lead with 2:06 left.
The Fighting Illini started the second half with a 16-5 spurt to increase the lead to 52-30 with 15:56 left. Powell scored seven points and Cook had a layup and a 3-pointer to highlight the run.
But despite the fatigue factor, Ohio State fought back with a 21-8 run over the next nine minutes. Darby capped the spurt with three straight 3-pointers, pulling the Buckeyes within 60-51 with 7:02 remaining.
After Self called a timeout, Augustine converted a pair of free throws and Harrington connected on a 3-pointer. Ohio State pulled no closer than 10 the rest of the way.