Iowa takes on Ohio State in Big Ten title tilt
(Sports Network) – The top two seeds in the 2006 Big Ten Conference
Tournament meet in the championship game today, as the Iowa Hawkeyes take
on the Ohio State Buckeyes. Iowa, which comes in as the No. 2 seed and is
ranked 20th in the nation, has won four consecutive games, the last two of
which have come in the postseason; 67-57 over Minnesota and 53-48 over
Michigan State. The Hawkeyes are 12-7 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament
and they own one title, that coming in 2001 in a 63-61 decision over
Ohio State, the league’s regular-season champs and the seventh-ranked team
in the country, has been even hotter of late, running off seven straight
victories, the last two of which have come in tournament play; 63-56 over
Penn State and 52-51 over Indiana. The Buckeyes have won 10 of their 17
previous Big Ten tourney bouts and also have one championship to their
credit, that coming in 2002 when they defeated these very same Hawkeyes,
81-64. OSU also appeared in the 2003 title tilt, losing to Illinois, 72-59.
Iowa handed Ohio State one of its four losses in conference play this
season, claiming a 67-62 verdict at home back on January 28th. As a
result, the Hawkeyes lead the overall series, 73-66.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Iowa Hawkeyes got the job done in Saturday’s
semifinal-round clash with Michigan State, sneaking past the Spartans in a
53-48 final. Iowa had three players reach double figures, led by Jeff Horner’s
14-point effort, but the team as a whole shot just 36.6 percent from the floor
and made good on only 2-of-10 three-point tries. A 21-11 edge in points from
the free-throw line proved huge for Iowa, as did the fact that MSU committed
18 turnovers and shot a paltry 28.3 percent from the field. Greg Brunner and
Mike Henderson got into the mix for coach Steve Alford’s club, netting 12 and
11 points, respectively.
Brunner is the team’s leading scorer (14.2 ppg) and rebounder (9.3 rpg),
while Adam Haluska is netting 13.7 ppg. Horner, who has led the team in
scoring in each of the last three games after doing so just twice in the
previous 13, is averaging 13.6 points and 5.5 assists per contest. Iowa
is a tremendous defensive team, allowing just 58.7 ppg.
Under the guidance of Big Ten Coach of the Year Thad Matta, Ohio State is in
position to win both the Big Ten’s regular-season and tournament titles. Matta
has now led three teams to their respective conference tournament finals and
he is 147-47 in six seasons as a collegiate head coach. On the court, Terence
Dials has been a man possessed for the Buckeyes, as the 2005-06 Big Ten Player
of the Year is averaging 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, and he is
currently ranked 14th on OSU’s all-time scoring list with 1,518 career points.
Dials scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in Saturday’s semifinal-round
nail-biter against Indiana, while J.J. Sullinger posted game-highs of 19
points and 13 boards to notch his second double-double of the season. Jamar
Butler dished out five assists, and OSU is an impressive 22-3 over the last
two seasons when Butler hands out at least four helpers in a contest. Ohio
State shot a dismal 32.8 percent from the field and connected on just 5-of-27
three-point attempts against Indiana, but the Hoosiers couldn’t capitalize,
hitting only 33.3 percent of their total shots, including a mere 5-of-22 from
beyond the arc.