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Big Ten Tournament roundup

Bass' banked-in FT lifts Ohio State to title game

Posted: Saturday March 15, 2003 4:50 PM
Updated: Saturday March 15, 2003 10:36 PM

 
Saturday's action
Shun Jenkins
Shun Jenkins helped Ohio State reach its second straight Big Ten tourney final.
AP

Saturday's Other Semifinal
Illinois 73, Indiana 72

Friday's Games
OSU knocks off Wisconsin

Thursday's Games
Lowly Wildcats stun Gophers

CHICAGO (AP) -- Brent Darby heard the whistle and thought he was going to the foul line once more, a chance to win the game for Ohio State with 6 seconds left.

Then he heard the referee call Charles Bass' name. Instead of Ohio State's leading scorer, the game was in the hands of a freshman who'd never even attempted a free throw, let alone made one.

"I went to say something to the referee and Charles told me, `Don't worry about it, I got it,"' Darby said. "The way he said it, he had a lot of confidence in his voice. So I stepped away from him and said, `Do your thing."'

Bass did. The reserve freshman, only in the game because Velimir Radinovic had fouled out, banked the first shot off the glass to give Ohio State a 55-54 victory over Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament Saturday afternoon.

The Spartans had one last shot, but Chris Hill's 13-footer clanged off the rim as time expired.

"Don't anybody question why Chris' last two shots didn't go in because they're not supposed to," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We did not deserve to win that game. They deserved to win the game. They outplayed us the entire game."

When the buzzer sounded, the Ohio State cheerleaders rushed the court and several Buckeyes collapsed on the floor. Barely above .500 two weeks ago, Ohio State (17-13) will play for the tournament championship -- and the Big Ten's automatic NCAA bid -- for a second straight year.

The eighth-seeded Buckeyes will play No. 13 Illinois, the second seed.

"I knew it was my time to step up. Everyone else had been doing it," Bass said. "Now we got to win a championship tomorrow. I want to win a championship."

Bass and Darby salvaged what would have been a huge collapse by the Buckeyes. They led by as much as 19 in the first half as they held Michigan State (19-12) to a woeful 15 percent shooting.

But Ohio State made just two field goals in the last 17:09, the last one coming with eight minutes to play. The Buckeyes also played the last 5:58 short-handed after big men Radinovic and Shun Jenkins fouled out.

"It was tough because we knew they were going to keep coming at us," Sean Connolly said. "It's just a testament to us. We kept fighting."

After trailing the entire game, Michigan State took a 51-50 lead on a 3-pointer by Maurice Ager with 3:43 to play. Knowing the Buckeyes didn't have any inside game, the Spartans clamped down on Darby.

But the 6-foot-1 guard didn't back down, making four foul shots in a 40-second span to give Ohio State a 54-51 lead with 1:59 left.

"We can't play without him. No chance," Ohio State Jim O'Brien said of Darby, who was 10-of-10 from the line in the last 9:36.

Hill came right back with a monster 3 to tie the game at 54 and, after trading misses, Ohio State again gave the ball to Darby. But Izzo wasn't going to let him go to the line again.

"I decided if I was going to lose the game, I was going to lose it with the ball in our hands at the end, not theirs," Izzo said. "So I just said, since we haven't been able to stop him once without fouling him, we're going to foul who we thought was their worst free throw shooter."

That would be Bass.

"I took it personally that they fouled me," Bass said.

And he made the Spartans pay, banking the first shot off the glass. As the Ohio State fans roared, the Chicago-area native turned around and pumped his left fist.

"I guess he's been working on that one on his own," Darby said. "I don't know where it came from, but it went down for us."

Bass missed the second shot and the Spartans got the rebound, but Hill couldn't pull off the last-ditch jumper.

Darby finished with 23 points, including 11-of-13 from the free throw line, and also had five rebounds, three assists and four steals.

Ager led Michigan State with 15, and Hill added 12.

The game might have had a different outcome if Michigan State hadn't been so awful in the first half. The Spartans made only two of their first 19 shots.

"I told them at halftime that they've embarrassed themselves and the university and I really believed that," Izzo said. "That's not to the caliber that we need to play or should play.

"If we would have won that game, as I told my team, they won't be as good of people or players later on. That was not worthy of us winning."

Illinois 73, Indiana 72

CHICAGO (AP) -- Brian Cook's mere presence means everything to Illinois. When the Big Ten player of the year spends time on the bench with foul trouble, as he did Saturday, the Illini suffer.

When he's in the game, they're a very different team, one that's very difficult to beat.

Cook scored 25 points and made two free throws with 5.2 seconds left as the Illini withstood a late Indiana charge led by Tom Coverdale to beat the Hoosiers 73-72 in the Big Ten semifinals.

"Certainly we are not the same team without Brian, and today was a day when we needed him because our other guys weren't as good offensively in the past," Illinois coach Bill Self said.

Illinois (23-6) will play Ohio State on Sunday for the title and the automatic NCAA tournament bid. The surprising Buckeyes won their third straight Saturday, beating Michigan State 55-54.

"If they go down, it will have to be a good team to beat them because there are not many weaknesses on their team," Coverdale said of the Illini.

Indiana (20-12) probably assured itself an at-large NCAA berth, one year after making it to the national final.

Coverdale, booed throughout the game by a contingent of Illinois fans at the United Center, made a pair of 3-pointers in the final 6.7 seconds -- the final one with four-tenths of a second to go -- and nearly brought the Hoosiers back from a 16-point halftime deficit.

He scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half, making four 3-pointers.

"When you are in a tournament situation, that's what you have to do as a senior. You have to do everything you can for your team to win, and that's what I was doing," Coverdale said in a description that could also apply to Cook's contribution for the Illini.

Luther Head scored 16 for Illinois, while Indiana's Bracey Wright, who had to leave the game late in the first half after taking an elbow to the head, also had 16.

With Cook on the bench for more than six minutes after getting his second and third fouls early in the second half, the Hoosiers chopped the halftime lead to five. George Leach had seven points during a 16-7, run capped by Wright's 3-pointer.

But Cook's return sparked the Illini, and they appeared to pull away again. He had two quick baskets and a three-point play, and Sean Harrington and Head hit 3-pointers, putting the Illini up 55-42 with 7:14 left.

"My fouls were obviously dumb; they took me out of the game," Cook said.

Illinois was still ahead by 11 after Dee Brown's steal and three-point play with 2:53 to go, but Coverdale wouldn't let the Hoosiers slip away.

"This team has pushed the panic button a lot this year, but I thought Coverdale calmed the storm," Indiana coach Mike Davis said. "He's playing his best basketball."

He hit his second 3-pointer of the half with 1:58 left, cutting the lead to seven, and then it became a free-throw contest down the stretch.

Brown and Head each made one of two at the line around two misses from Wright, leaving Illinois ahead 71-66 with 13 seconds left.

Coverdale then sank a 3 to make it 71-69. Cook calmly hit two from the line around a timeout for a four-point lead before Coverdale made another 3-pointer just before the buzzer. This time, the Hoosiers couldn't foul again to stop the clock.

Illinois missed four of 10 free throws in the final 47 seconds.

"I think we played the dumbest we played all year down the stretch," Cook said.

Cook picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with 2:44 left, but when teammate James Augustine fouled out, he returned for the final 67 seconds.

"I just wanted to make sure we had him down the stretch, which turned out to be pretty important," Self said.

The Illini went on a 17-2 run in the final 5:26 of the first half as Head scored nine points, including a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, and Cook had eight.

That gave the Illini a 37-21 lead at the end of a physical half that saw both of the Hoosiers' starting freshman guards, Wright and Marshall Strickland, leave the game after collisions.

Wright went to the locker room after catching an elbow to the head that left him woozy with 1:43 left. Strickland collided with Head while chasing a loose ball and got a cut on the side of his head. Head broke a tooth in the run-in that splattered the floor with blood with 21 seconds left.

Wright held an ice pack to his head before returning to the game with 14:16 left, and Strickland stayed on the bench for the entire second half.

 
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