Dials leads No. 8 Buckeyes to outright Big Ten title

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- No one can overlook Ohio State now.

Terence Dials scored 20 points and the ninth-ranked Buckeyes

broke the game open with a 14-2 blitz to start the second half to

beat Purdue 76-57 on Sunday, clinching their first outright Big Ten

title in 14 years.

Dogged by a lingering NCAA investigation involving people no

longer with the program, and coming the year before a banner

recruiting class, Ohio State never was mentioned when the talk

turned to preseason favorites in the Big Ten.

"No one gave us a chance," Dials said. "People across the

country forgot about the Buckeyes it seemed. We didn't get the

credit we thought we deserved. We wanted to go out and prove a lot

of naysayers wrong."

J.J. Sullinger had 16 points for the Buckeyes (23-4, 12-4), who

have won their last five games and are the top seed for this week's

Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. Jamar Butler added 15 points.

"We've kind of flown under the radar to this point," Sullinger

said, referring to the Buckeyes' late appearance in and slow rise

in the polls. "But you've got to remember Ohio State now when you

talk about (national) contenders."

In the waning moments, with the outcome long decided, the Ohio

State student section chanted, "Big Ten champs!" and "Thank you,


"It's a great life lesson for these guys," second-year coach

Thad Matta said. "If you commit to something and stay the course,

anything's possible."

Despite a dreadful shooting day -- he missed his first 11 shots

from the field -- Je'Kel Foster contributed eight points, eight

rebounds, five assists and five steals -- and got the loudest

reception when he left the game with a minute and a half left.

The Buckeyes have prospered with a lineup that includes three

fifth-year players and another senior who always seemed to make

plays when most needed.

"It was a good day to be a Buckeye," Sullinger said. "It was

an even better day to be a senior."

The Buckeyes were eighth, ninth and sixth the last three years

in the conference.

The outright title is the school's first since Jim Jackson was

the star in 1992 -- and only the second since 1971. It also marked

the first time a Big Ten school has captured outright titles in

men's and women's basketball in the same season.

Gary Ware scored 25 points for Purdue (9-18, 3-13), which lost

four in a row to finish last in the Big Ten for the first time in

40 years.

Boilermakers coach Matt Painter offered his congratulations to

the Buckeyes.

"They got picked fifth or sixth," he said of preseason

predictions. "Who cares about the rankings? These guys proved


The Buckeyes held a tenuous four-point lead to start the second

half but quickly sprinted away. Sullinger opened the half by

hitting a 13-foot fallaway before Dials scored over Ware. Sullinger

then dunked off a fast break assist from Matt Sylvester.

After Matt Kiefer scored for the Boilermakers, Sullinger had a

three-point play after a behind-the-back pass from Foster that

brought the capacity crowd of 18,500 to its feet.

Foster finally banged in a 3-pointer and Dials scored inside,

and all of a sudden it was 49-33.

"I knew we had to come out of the gate and jump on Purdue,"

Foster said. "We had to turn up our defensive pressure."

Matta addressed the crowd after the Big Ten trophy was presented

to his players.

"I asked these guys to help lay the foundation for the future

of this program," he said at midcourt. "It looks pretty damned

good to me right now."