INDIANAPOLIS - The No. 5 Ohio State basketball team may not be the Cardiac Kids quite yet but they are making sure to bring a touch of drama to their games in the Big Ten Tournament.
Friday against Michigan the Bucks needed a last second shot from 37 feet from Evan Turner to get the win and on Saturday it took double overtime after the Buckeyes overcame a double digit-deficit to win 88-81 over Illinois to advance to the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
The Big Ten conference player of the year went for 31 points and ten rebounds before fouling out in the second overtime but also committed ten turnovers as well. William Buford had 22 points and ten rebounds while Jon Diebler had 13 and David Lighty had 12.
Illinois was led by Turner's high school friend Demetri McCamey and his 22 points, most which came in the second half, and D.J. Richardson had 15 of his own.
The game was filled with twists and turns of momentum with the Buckeyes going on a 20-0 run at one point to secure a nine point lead but if this tournament has taught us anything it is that things may not be as they seem all the time.
"It just seems like we are supposed to be here," Diebler said. "Evan hits a 37-footer at the end and then we win in double overtime off of a missed Mike Davis layup. I didn't even know if he got it off but he was wide open. It was a scare for everyone."
The final minute of the regulation period went back and forth as Lightly drove for a layup to tie the game up at 64-all and then Turner made a layup with 15 seconds left to tie it back up at 66. But Illinois had the last look and hit a wide open Davis from three feet out and he missed the open bunny as time expired. It wouldn't have mattered if it went in as the ball was released after the buzzer sounded but it did create for tense moments.
Things were chippy most of the way during the game and Turner and McCamey put their friendship on hold during the 2-plus hours on the floor.
"He was just talking to me and talking too much like we didn't beat them the first two times," Turner said.
Turner did not hold back some of his frustrations after the game.
"When they were hitting shots they started talking a little bit more with smack," Turner said. "They are frontrunners... this is a day that they chose that they wanted to win as opposed to the rest of the season. I didn't like that at all so we weren't happy with that."
During the first overtime session neither team was able to extend the lead beyond four points. The Illini had a chance though at the end of the OT session to win it again but Richardson was unable to get a shot off in time and with that a second overtime would need to be played to decide the game.
"Once you knock a team like Illinois on its heels they don't want to have anything to do with you," Turner said.
Ohio State would lead the entire way through the second overtime but had to do part of it without Turner after he picked up his fifth foul (he picked up his fourth in regulation). What did Turner say to his teammates when he had to hit the bench after being disqualified?
"He kind of predicted what was going to happen and said (the shooter) was going to miss one of the free throws and then we are going to make a bucket and finish it off," Lighty said. "And that is exactly what happened... he kind of prophesized that."
The Bucks had much more success on Saturday getting into the paint then they did on Friday against Michigan. That type of game suits Ohio State much better than having to settle as a jump shooting team.
"That is just how we play," Lighty said. "We like to penetrate and I think Evan allows that to happen for other players on our team because he draws so much attention to himself. When we penetrate we are a great team."
The unsung player of the game had to be Kyle Madsen who played for 32 minutes with Dallas Lauderdale having an off day after being poked in the eye in the first half. Matta had some special words for Madsen before sending him into the game for the second time.
"He was telling me that I need to get out on Tyler Griffey (who had 13 points off the bench) and make sure he doesn't hit another shot like that," Madsen said. "He said tackle him if I have to."
After two close games have the Buckeyes had the opportunity to finally get the rust off of the bus?
"We better be now because that was 90 minutes of basketball." Matta joked. "I think we are and like I told these guys that I think we needed this from a standpoint of getting into situations... from here on out it becomes momentum."
Turner was the hero of both games but it is surprising which game means more to him.
"I like this one definitely," Turner said. "We persevered through a tough time, we were down when Demetri hit a three. Just keep coming back and it is a group thing and persevere and refuse to lose."