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Chicago tournament weekend highlighted by Big Ten bests

Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor

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CHICAGO – Throughout the regular season, the Big Ten was considered the nation’s best conference. With its teams on display this weekend at the conference tournament in Chicago, the Big Ten didn’t disappoint.
Ohio State won its fourth tournament championship Sunday, beating Wisconsin, 50-43. There were plenty of highlights though, from the tournament’s start on Thursday afternoon through the finale.

Best game: No. 2 seed OSU 61, No. 3 seed Michigan State 58, Saturday, semifinal round

The Buckeyes and Spartans had two close battles in the regular season, and the third matchup of the season between the two teams was no different. Behind a 20-point outburst from junior guard Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes overcame big games from Spartan junior forward Adreian Payne and junior point guard Keith Appling.

Best player: Craft

The rosy-cheeked fan favorite was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and rightfully so. Craft had what was potentially the best game of any player in the tournament in OSU’s semifinal win against MSU. He scored 20 points, 18 in the second half, while adding nine assists, four steals and three rebounds. On the tournament, Craft averaged 12 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals a game.

Best crowd: MSU vs. No. 6 seed Iowa, Friday, quarterfinal round

The Spartans and Hawkeyes both had large groups of fans in Chicago, and their close battle in the quarterfinal round proved it. MSU overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half to overtake Iowa, 59-56, after a 3-point attempt from the Hawkeyes in the closing seconds was off. The crowd’s energy had a lot to do with questionable calls from the referees, too, as Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said after the game his players deserved a “better fate.”

Best shot: Illinois senior guard Brandon Paul’s buzzer beater against Minnesota, Thursday, first round

With the game tied, Paul got the ball at the top of the key with the seconds ticking down. He waited until about the six-second mark to make his move. Paul dribbled hard to the left elbow, crossed over, stepped back, and hit a fadeaway jumper that flushed through the net to give the Illini a 51-49 victory.

Biggest surprise: Indiana not making the tournament final

The Hoosiers were widely considered the conference’s most talented team throughout the season. Indiana has experienced skill, too, with its best players nearly all having big-time roles last year. They came into Chicago as the No. 1 seed, but Wisconsin best the Hoosiers, 68-56, behind 16 points from senior forward Ryan Evans.  

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