Buckeyes rock way into final

Associated Press
Published March 12, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS - J.J. Sullinger reveled in his temporary rock-star image Saturday - even if the cotton over his left eye looked out of place.

After he had 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Sullinger high-stepped his way off the court playing air guitar for the Ohio State fans.

Matt Sylvester scored on a layup with 37.4 seconds left, Indiana missed two chances to win it and Sullinger grabbed the final rebound to help seventh-ranked Ohio State hang on for a 52-51 victory over Indiana in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

"It came down to the last play of the game and you can't really say that's how you want it to go down," Sullinger said. "But to win this game was huge for us and it makes us feel good about ourselves."

Good enough for a dance.

After Indiana's Marco Killingsworth missed a 5-foot hook shot, and Roderick Wilmont missed a 7-foot jumper off the front of the rim, Sullinger grabbed the rebound, swung his arms around and kicked his leg up as he walked off the court.

It showed how much this game meant to Ohio State.

The Buckeyes (25-4) won their seventh straight and reached their first tournament final since 2003. They could join Illinois and Michigan State as two-time winners when they face No. 20 Iowa today.

From the early moments, Big Ten player of the year Terence Dials and Killingsworth traded jabs, elbows and barbs. During the first timeout, official Mike Sanzere walked over to Dials and told him to tone down the talking.

The battle of the big bodies was a virtual draw. Dials finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three blocks, and Killingsworth had 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.

The Buckeyes led 47-38 with 8:34 to go, but the Hoosiers (18-11) rallied by holding OSU scoreless for nearly five minutes. They eventually the score at 47 on Earl Calloway's three-point play with 3:47 left.

Indiana took the lead when Wilmont drove the baseline for a layup with 1:50 left, then Sylvester broke free down low and Dials hit him with a pass for the go-ahead layup with 37.4 seconds left.

Early in the second half, Sullinger was grazed across the left eye, a cut that forced him to come out as trainers bandaged it.

NO. 20 IOWA 53, MICHIGAN ST. 48: For the second straight game, Iowa let an opposing star score big.

And for the second straight day, Iowa won, overcoming Maurice Ager's 21 points to beat the Spartans in the semifinals.

Friday night, Minnesota's Vincent Grier scored 29 against the Hawkeyes in a losing cause. Saturday, team defense and balanced scoring again were the difference for Iowa (24-8).

Jeff Horner scored 14 and Greg Brunner added 12 for the No. 2 seed Hawkeyes, who will make their first final appearance since 2002.

Ager shot 8-for-18, but Iowa's intense defense caused the rest of the Spartans to shoot 7-for-35. Michigan State (22-11) set season lows for points and field-goal percentage (28.3). Shannon Brown, the Spartans' second-leading scorer this season, shot 3-for-16 and was held to eight points, 10 below his average.

"It was rough," Brunner said. "The refs did a great job and said they were going to let the players fight and determine the game."

Ager was the only Spartan to make a field goal in the final 8 minutes. He made five 3-pointers, one short of the tournament single-game record, including two in the final minute. But Iowa made 9-of-10 free throws in the final two minutes.

Michigan State played an extra tournament game to reach the semifinals because of its lower seed.

"I was very disappointed in our execution and some of our guard play," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "Maybe we were a little fatigued. We were short on a lot of shots."

Iowa coach Steve Alford said he saw a difference in MSU between the first half and the second half.

"They played three games in three days. That's not easy," he said. "They don't have a real deep bench right now. We just wanted to wear on them."