Ohio State Slips Past Michigan, Will Play for Big Ten Championship on Sunday

The Buckeyes are headed to the title game for the first time since 2013.
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For the first time since 2013, the Ohio State Buckeyes will play for the Big Ten championship.

Michigan guard Mike Smith had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but his jump shot clanked off the back of the iron and Ohio State held on to beat their archrivals, 68-67.

With their third win in three days, the Buckeyes have advanced to the Big Ten Championship game against the winner of No. 2 Illinois and No. 3 Iowa, which is scheduled to begin 25 minutes after the Buckeyes and Wolverines clear the floor. Ohio State hasn't played for a Big Ten title since 2013. Tipoff on Sunday afternoon is at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on CBS.

Before the day even tipped off, the Big Ten Tournament semifinals made college basketball history. Never before has a Division I conference tournament semifinals included four of the AP Top-10 teams in the country. This tournament truly has a Final Four feel to it - and whether the games have been high or low-scoring, they've almost all been very competitive. It's been a great celebration of basketball in the toughest league in the country, during a year where we've been starved for amazing sports stories.

Without Kyle Young available, and playing their third game in three days, the Buckeyes relied on the formula that's helped them all season: they are greater together as a unit than they are the sum of their parts. This team hasn't had much in the way of true, elite star-power all season. But they've consistently performed at a high level when the lights shine brightest and the Buckeyes are going to play for a championship.

On Sunday, Duane Washington Jr. and E.J. Liddell carried the torch offensively. Washington - a Michigan native who always seems to play well against the Wolverines - finished with 24 points on 9-of-20 shooting. Liddell added 18 points in the win.

Big Ten Freshman of the Year Hunter Dickinson paced Michigan with 21 points and eight rebounds.

After the Buckeyes and Wolverines played an instant classic in Columbus on Feb. 21, in a game that featured some truly elite offensive production, the first half of Saturday's Big Ten semifinal was far from surgical. Both teams limped into the locker room with Michigan leading 27-26. Ohio State hit 30.3 percent from the floor in the opening stanza, while the Maize and Blue connected on just 29.6 percent.

In fact, at the first media timeout of the second half, Michigan was shooting 27 percent for the game, and yet they only trailed by two points.

But what the game lacked in offense, it certainly didn't lack in drama.

Meanwhile, Liddell and Washington Jr. each hit two 3-pointers in the early second half to give the Buckeyes a 42-38 lead with 12:53 to play.

But every time Ohio State seemed to get any rhythm, Michigan quickly answered back with points of its own. Through the first 30 minutes, neither team led by more than five points.

Then the Buckeyes finally made a small run and provided some separation. 

They scored 11 unanswered points over a 2-minute stretch and led 53-43 on C.J. Walker's highlight-reel, and-1 layup with 9:06 to play.

Then another blow to the Wolverines. With 5:17 to play, Justice Sueing made a layup and was fouled by Franz Wagner - his fifth and final foul of the game. He finished a tough day 2-for-10 shooting with eight points and six rebounds before fouling out. That basket and from Sueing gave the Buckeyes a 61-50 lead with 5:17 to go.

Michigan wasn't done quite yet though. They cut it to 68-64 with 1:28 to play after Dickinson stole an in-bounds pass from Liddell.

Then after a timeout, Chaundee Brown Jr. buried a 3-pointer with 47.1 seconds to play to cut Ohio State's lead to 68-67.

With the 1-point lead, C.J. Walker dribbled towards the basket and stepped out of bounds, giving the ball back to Michigan to try and win the game.

But Mike Smith's shot from the top of the arc hit off the back of the rim and time expired.

Much more to come from Indianapolis after Chris Holtmann's postgame press conference, which can be streamed live on our website and on our YouTube channel.

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