Monday, March 11, 2002

Ohio St. wins Big Ten tourney

The Associated Press

        INDIANAPOLIS — Four teams staked their claims to being the Big Ten's best squad during the regular season. Boban Savovic made sure only Ohio State was left standing after the postseason tournament.

        Savovic scored 27 points to lead the 21st-ranked Buckeyes to an 81-64 victory over Iowa on Sunday and its first Big Ten tournament championship.

        Ohio State (23-7) shared the regular-season title with Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, but the Buckeyes were the only one of the four to reach the championship game.

        The Buckeyes led by three midway through the second half before two 3-pointers by Savovic during a 21-8 run put the game away.

        “He was possessed a little bit,” teammate Brian Brown said. “He got us motivated. I think he just single-handedly opened the game up.”

        Savovic, Brown and Brent Darby were named to the all-tournament team from Ohio State.

        The Buckeyes were seeded fourth in the West Regional for the NCAA tournament and will play 13th-seeded Davidson in Albuquerque, N.M.

        Savovic, who scored 15 points in the second half, said he was motivated by his brother Predrag's 28-point game for Hawaii in the Western Athletic Conference tournament final. Hawaii was seeded 10th, also in the West.

        “I was just hoping we were going to win because I knew he was going to tease me about it,” Savovic said. “Now we got a No. 4 seed and he got a No. 10, so I can't wait to talk to him.”

        Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien was disappointed his team won't be playing closer to home.

        “It just reinforces the confusion and how much I don't understand about how this works,” he said.

        “I don't know what consideration was given to us winning this tournament. I don't think it's anything for us to dwell on. Now it's about going to play against Davidson.”

        After winning three games in as many days, two on their final possession, and a record seven straight in the Big Ten tournament, the Hawkeyes fell one game shy of a second straight title.

        Iowa (19-15) proved too weary to stay with the Buckeyes, who earned their fourth straight NCAA tournament bid.

        Luke Recker, Iowa's hero in the last two wins, finished with 21 points. Reggie Evans had 13 points and eight rebounds.

        Iowa, the defending tournament champion, beat Purdue in the first round, then Indiana and Wisconsin.

        “We knew winning four games in four days was going to be difficult, let alone trying to beat three of the four co-champions in the league,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said.

        “I like what this team has done the last three weeks. They've done a nice job of working together, battling through some things and beating some good teams along the way.”

        Darby added 14 points for the Buckeyes, and Brown had nine.

        While Iowa had success in the tournament previously, the Buckeyes had had little.

        Last week, the players shaved their heads to provide a unified front as they attempted to change their postseason history. In the previous four seasons, Ohio State was 1-4 in the conference tournament, but the Buckeyes won three straight to capture this year's title.

        Ohio State took advantage of Iowa's fatigue early by getting to most of the loose balls and shooting well.

        The Buckeyes broke to a 9-0 lead with Savovic and Brown each hitting 3-pointers. They extended the lead to 29-15 before the Hawkeyes rallied with a 9-2 run and closed to 37-29 at halftime.

        Iowa appeared a little fresher at the start of the second half. Evans and Pierre Pierce accounted for the first six points, getting the Hawkeyes to 37-35 at the 17:32 mark.

        Ohio State, however, rebuilt a 51-43 lead on another 3-pointer by Savovic, the tournament MVP. Iowa countered with five straight points, but the Buckeyes regained control with an 11-4 run to make it 64-54 with 7:09 to go.

        Then the Buckeyes pulled away as Savovic hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 74-58 with 4:47 remaining.

        The Hawkeyes, who rallied behind Recker for upset victories on Friday and Saturday, couldn't do the same Sunday as they lost in the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 2000.

        The Hawkeyes, who started 12-3 but went 5-11 in the conference, will likely make the NIT.

        “We played well in the tournament, but we didn't play this well during the season,” Recker said. “That's why we're in this position.”

        IOWA (19-15) — Evans 4-9 5-6 13, Sonderleiter 1-3 0-0 2, Leslie 2-5 0-0 4, Pierce 3-7 0-0 6, Recker 6-10 4-4 21, Hogan 1-3 1-1 3, Worley 1-4 2-4 4, Reiner 0-0 0-0 0, Boyd 3-6 0-0 9, Henderson 1-4 0-0 2, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 12-15 64.

        OHIO ST. (23-7) — Savovic 8-14 6-9 27, Williams 1-4 0-0 2, Radinovic 2-3 2-2 6, Darby 4-9 4-6 14, Brown 4-10 0-0 9, Fuss-Cheatham 0-0 0-0 0, Connolly 2-4 2-2 7, Heflin 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Dials 4-6 3-4 11, Dudley 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 2-3 1-2 5, Marinchick 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 18-25 81.

        Halftime—Ohio St. 37-29. 3-Point goals—Iowa 8-25 (Recker 5-8, Boyd 3-6, Sonderleiter 0-1, Worley 0-1, Leslie 0-2, Pierce 0-2, Hogan 0-2, Henderson 0-3), Ohio St. 9-22 (Savovic 5-10, Darby 2-4, Brown 1-3, Connolly 1-3, Heflin 0-1, Marinchick 0-1). Fouled out—None. Rebounds—Iowa 32 (Evans 8), Ohio St. 28 (Savovic, Williams, Radinovic, Darby, Connolly, Dials 3). Assists—Iowa 14 (Pierce 3), Ohio St. 17 (Savovic, Radinovic 5). Total fouls—Iowa 19, Ohio St. 19. A—18,996.


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