With the 2019-’20 college basketball offseason in full swing, it’s a great time to look back on the decade for the Big Ten. While the league didn’t win a national championship during the 2010s, it did send a variety of teams to the Final Four and had plenty of quality play.
So, in that mindset, BTP is looking at the most memorable games for each Big Ten team during the 2010s. These aren’t necessarily the most significant or the most fiercely contested games. Rather, they’re the most memorable. So, just because a game came in the postseason doesn’t guarantee it a spot on this list.
But before we jump in, a few other notes on our criteria. To qualify for this list, a game needed to happen sometime between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2019. I realize that cuts between two seasons, but that’s the criteria we’re using. A team also didn’t have to win a game for it to make this list. For instance, Michigan’s loss to Louisville in the 2013 title game was certainly memorable, even though the Wolverines didn’t come out on top.
The Most Memorable Ohio State Games During the 2010s:
-No. 7 Ohio State vs. Michigan (March 12, 2010) — Ohio State 69, Michigan 68
The Evan Turner game-winner.
The first game on the list is maybe the most memorable. The 2009-’10 Buckeyes entered their first Big Ten Tournament game against a mediocre Michigan team who ended the year 15-17. Still, everyone knows rivalry games can bring out the best in underdogs.
Michigan jumped out to a nine-point lead in the first half but Ohio State woke up and ended up leading 35-25 at the half. Still, the Buckeyes had trouble putting the Wolverines away, seeing a thirteen-point second half lead whittle away until Michigan took the lead on consecutive scores by Manny Harris (who ended up with 26 points) with under a minute to play. With only three seconds remaining, Ohio State trailed by two and had to go the full court to try and tie or win it. Victory seemed a remote possibility.
Every Big Ten fan knows what happens next.
Evan Turner took an uncontested inbound pass from David Lighty, dribbled to around 37 feet from the basket, let it fly, and connected for an incredible 69-68 victory.
A few comments on the game-winner:
- The juxtaposition of Turner’s stoicism and coach Thad Matta’s red-faced, explicative-laced celebration always makes me laugh, even ten years later.
- Playing armchair quarterback here, but what is Michigan doing defensively? The question of whether to guard the inbounder is always debated, but there’s still little pressure applied to Turner bringing up the ball, and Stu Douglass giving up four inches to Turner in a haphazard shot defense seems weird too. I get Michigan worrying about not wanting to foul, especially on a three-point attempt, but you can’t do that to a paralyzing effect.
I know I just spent about 300 words on this game, but it’s awesome and one of the most memorable moments of any Big Ten game of the 2010s. Let’s continue with the list.
-No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Wisconsin (March 9, 2011) — Ohio State 93, Wisconsin 65
The “deal with it” game.
The backstory to this top-10 showdown was Wisconsin handed Ohio State its first loss of the season three weeks before in Madison. At the game, Buckeye star Jarad Sullinger alleged that a Wisconsin fan spit in his face as he left the floor. Asked about the incident after the game, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said, “We won the game. Deal with it.”
The Buckeyes and their fans remembered those words and came out in this one and buried the Badgers. Behind a raucous crowd, Ohio State used a 23-10 spurt in the first half to pull away from Wisconsin and never look back. Leading the way was Jon Diebler, who scored 27 points on 7-8 shooting from three-point land. As a team, the Buckeyes were an incredible 14-15 from long distance. Below is Gus Johnson going crazy over two of Diebler’s three’s.
-No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Kentucky - Sweet Sixteen - (March 25, 2011) — Kentucky 62, Ohio State 60
Another NCAA Tournament heartbreak for the Buckeyes.
As the no. 1 overall seed, the Buckeyes had dreams of a Final Four and a run at a national championship. Those hopes were dashed in the Sweet Sixteen on a go-ahead 15-foot jump shot by Kentucky’s Brandon Knight with just over five seconds to go.
This game can be summarized as a back-and-forth defensive struggle. Both teams struggled from the floor, and Kentucky hounded Ohio State’s potent three-point threat. The Buckeyes shot just 32 percent from the field and outside of Jon Diebler’s four three-pointers, the rest of the team made only two from long range.
Sullinger led the way for the Buckeyes with 21 points and 16 rebounds.
-No. 10 Ohio State at No. 5 Michigan State - (March 4, 2012) — Ohio State 72, Michigan State 70
William Buford’s high-arcing game-winning shot on the road in East Lansing earned the Buckeyes a share of their third consecutive Big Ten title.
Early on in this one, things looked bleak for the Buckeyes. Breslin was rocking for senior day, and the Spartans jumped out to 24-9 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half. Ohio State chipped away at Michigan State’s lead but still trailed 38-29 at intermission.
The Buckeye offense exploded in the second half for 43 points and outscored Michigan State 23-13 in the first 10 minutes of the second half. From there, it was back-and-forth until Buford silenced the Breslin faithful with that incredible shot to give the Buckeyes the victory.
-No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 1 Syracuse - Elite Eight - (March 24, 2012) — Ohio State 77, Syracuse 70
The Buckeyes got over the hump and returned to its first Final Four since 2007 with this victory over the East region’s top-ranked Syracuse Orange.
Ohio State dealt with Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone and dominated the Orange on the boards 41-30. They also used a balanced attack of Sullinger (19 points), Deshaun Thomas (14 points), Buford (13 points), and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (18 points) to keep the Orange at bay most of the game. While not the most exciting game on this list, this game was a victorious culmination of five years of trying to get back to the Final Four after the program’s 2007 run.
-No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Kansas - Final Four - (March 31, 2012) - Kansas 64, Ohio State 62
The next game after the victory over Syracuse was a showdown with Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks. For the first half, it seemed like Ohio State was on its way to a championship game matchup against Kentucky. It all went away in the second half, as Kansas charged back and took the lead with under three minutes to play. Ohio State led 59-56 with 2:22 to play, but Kansas scored six consecutive points and Ohio State could not get back over the top.
The Buckeyes had a lot of March Madness heartbreak in the 2010s. This might be the biggest gut punch. Everything went right in the first half and it all evaporated in the final 20 minutes of play. This remains the last Ohio State Final Four team.
-No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Iowa State - NCAA Tournament Second Round - (March 23, 2013) - Ohio State 78, Iowa State 75
The following season Ohio State saw the departures from talented players such as Sullinger and Buford but kept things rolling by staying the top 15 all of the season. The Buckeyes finished second the Big Ten and cut down the nets at Big Ten tournament champions. However, they saved some of their biggest fireworks for the NCAA Tournament.
In the second round of play, the second-seeded Buckeyes found themselves in a dogfight with Iowa State. Ohio State led comfortably by 13 with just over six minutes to go but saw Iowa State storm back and briefly take a 75-74 lead with just over three minutes remaining. After an Ohio State free throw the game remained tied and scoreless for over two minutes before Craft buried a three-pointer over 6-foot-7 Georges Niang to put the Buckeyes into its fourth consecutive Sweet Sixteen.
-No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Arizona - Sweet Sixteen - (March 28, 2013) - Ohio State 73, Arizona 70
The late-game heroics in the 2013 NCAA Tournament weren’t over for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State squared off against the sixth seed, Arizona, for a birth to the Elite Eight. It was a game of wild swings. Arizona led at one point 33-22 in the first half and Ohio State responded with a 31-10 run throughout the first and second half to take their largest lead 53-43. From there, Arizona clawed its way back and tied things at 70 on a three-point play by Mark Lyons.
That’s when LaQuinton Ross rose and knocked down a three-pointer with just two seconds remaining to give the Buckeyes the lead and eventual win.
Ohio State would fall to Wichita State in the Elite Eight, but the 2013 team’s tournament run using two game-winning shots in the final seconds is one of the more memorable March’s in recent program history.
-Ohio State vs. No. 1 Michigan State - (January 7, 2018) - Ohio State 80, Michigan State 64
The first statement win from Chris Holtmann.
The 2017-’18 Buckeyes had gotten off to a good start under Holtmann, but no one was sure how they would hang with the no. 1 team in the country in this early January matchup.
Ohio State proved they could not only hang with the Spartans, but that they could also administer a beatdown.
That’s what this game was. A beatdown of the no. 1 team of the country. Behind 32 points from Keita Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes used a 24-4 run at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half to blow past the Spartans and win comfortably going away.
It put the conference on notice that the Buckeyes were back and needed to be contended with.
-No. 14 Ohio State at No. 3 Purdue - (February 7, 2018) - Ohio State 64, Purdue 63
A month later Ohio State continued with the statement wins with an improbable victory on the road at Mackey Arena.
With just over 10 minutes to go Purdue led Ohio State 53-39. In those circumstances, that’s usually a death sentence against the Boilermakers on the road.
Bates-Diop led the comeback and won the game for the Buckeyes on an offensive rebound putback with only seconds remaining. Bates-Diop finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds as the Buckeyes solidified their position as one of the best teams in the Big Ten.