By Cliff Brunt
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Jared Sullinger had 15 points and 11 rebounds and No. 1 Ohio State defeated Penn State 71-60 in the Big Ten tournament final on Sunday to strengthen its case for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Sullinger, the tournament’s most outstanding player, averaged 16.3 points and 14 rebounds in the tournament to help the top-seeded Buckeyes (32-2) repeat as champions.
William Buford scored 18 points and Jon Diebler added 15 for the Buckeyes, who also won the league’s regular-season title.
Talor Battle scored 24 points and Jeff Brooks added 19 for Penn State (19-14), which reached the final for the first time.
The Nittany Lions haven’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2001. Penn State was trying to become the first team since Iowa in 2001 to win four consecutive games to claim the title.
Penn State’s Tim Frazier, who scored 22 points in the semifinal win over Michigan State, didn’t score against Ohio State until 6:50 remained and finished with five points.
The Nittany Lions had allowed 45.3 points per game in their three tournament wins, but Ohio State surpassed that total with 13 minutes remaining. The Buckeyes shot 64 percent in the second half.
The Buckeyes won their seventh straight game and became the second team in conference history to play in the final for three straight years. They became the first repeat tournament champion since Michigan State in 1999 and 2000, and both of those teams reached the Final Four.
Battle drained two early 3-pointers, but Ohio State still led 10-8 before going on a 6-0 run that caused Penn State to call a timeout.
It took more than 9 minutes for a Penn State player other than Battle to score, but once his teammates began producing, the gap closed. Two free throws by Jermaine Marshall cut Ohio State’s lead to 22-21.
Ohio State closed the half strong, and Diebler’s 3-pointer over Battle at the buzzer gave the Buckeyes a 29-23 lead.
Ohio State continued its hot shooting early in the second half. Consecutive 3-pointers by William Buford and Aaron Craft gave the Buckeyes a 46-29 lead with 13 minutes remaining.
Battle drained a 3-pointer with 5 minutes remaining to cut Ohio State’s lead to 57-47, but Sullinger responded with a three-point play that halted Penn State’s rally.
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