CHICAGO -- Brent Darby heard the whistle and thought he was going to the free-throw line once more, a chance to win for Ohio State with six seconds left.
Then he heard the referee call Charles Bass' name. Instead of the Buckeyes' leading scorer, the game was in the hands of a freshman who never had attempted a free throw.
"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, in the game only 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 tournament semifinals 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. Barely above .500 two weeks ago, the eighth-seeded Buckeyes (17-13) will play for the tournament championship for a second straight season.
"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. Ohio State led by as much as 19 in the first half as it held Michigan State (19-12) to 15 percent shooting.
But Ohio State made just two field goals in the last 17:09, the last 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."
NO. 13 ILLINOIS 73, INDIANA 72: Brian Cook's mere presence means everything to the Illini. When the Big Ten player of the year spends time on the bench with foul trouble, Illinois suffers.
When he's in the game, it's a very different team.
Cook scored 25 and made two free throws with 5.2 seconds left as the Illini withstood a late Indiana charge led by Tom Coverdale.
"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.
"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 (23-6).
Indiana (20-12) probably assured itself an at-large NCAA berth, one year after making it to the national final.
Coverdale, booed throughout by Illinois fans at the United Center, made two 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 in the second half, making four 3-pointers.
With Cook out for more than six minutes after getting his second and third fouls early in the second half, the Hoosiers cut the halftime lead to five. George Leach had seven points during a 16-7 run capped by Wright's 3-pointer.