CHICAGO -- Ohio State reaped not one but two big rewards on Sunday.
The Buckeyes (26-7) beat Wisconsin 50-43 for the Big Ten tournament title at the United Center, then within the hour learned they had also secured a favorable NCAA Tournament slot.
Ohio State earned the No. 2 West Region seed and faces No. 15 Iona (20-13) on Friday in Dayton. Gonzaga was seeded No. 1 in the West.
Guard Aaron Craft can't wait.
"Playing at Dayton you can't have anything better," he said. "Buckeye Nation travels very well, especially when it's an hour down the road."
Ohio State earned its elevated berth as Deshaun Thomas
scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Buckeyes to their third Big Ten tournament championship in four years with the victory at the United Center.
"You look at this tournament and you look at this league and to be standing on top of it today is incredible," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "That was a hard-fought basketball game. I thought both teams were exhausted."
With the game deadlocked at 41-41 -- the sixth second-half tie -- Ohio State asserted control as Craft scored on a coast-to-coast fast-break layup and LaQuinton Ross added a pair of driving layups.
Ross' second basket, with 2:27 left in regulation, gave the Buckeyes a 47-41 lead, their biggest margin since early in the first half.
Thomas, meanwhile, was 3-for-4 on free throws in the final 44 seconds to maintain the Ohio State margin.
Wisconsin went the final seven minutes without a field goal.
"You still have to make shots, man," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said.
"I think we got some of the looks we wanted," said Wisconsin point guard Traevon Jackson, who scored a team-high 10 points. "Personally for me I got some of the looks I wanted but I kind of rushed them a little bit."
The Buckeyes jumped to an early first-half lead as Craft and Sam Thompson had two buckets apiece to open a 13-6 advantage before eight minutes had elapsed. Wisconsin was just 3-for-10 (30 percent) in the same span.
But the Badgers and freshman Frank Kaminsky suddenly found their scoring touch with 14 unanswered points.
Kaminsky hit a jumper at the 9:20 mark, added a steal and feed to Ryan Evans for a successful layup, and then hit a 3-pointer as Wisconsin opened a 20-13 lead.
Ohio State's Thompson broke the run with a jumper, but the Badgers renewed their surge on the way to a 24-15 advantage on Evans' hook shot with 3:20 left.
"We didn't freak out," said Thomas. "We got in the huddle, we took a deep breath and stayed with the system. Last month we probably would have freaked out and forced a lot of things, but we kept our head in and made a nice little run."
The Buckeyes proceeded to close the gap as Thomas hit three buckets in a span of 2:39 span, leaving the Buckeyes down just 24-23 at halftime.
Thomas had eight first-half points while Thompson added six. Kaminsky paced the Badgers with five.
Ohio State grabbed a short-lived 25-24 lead on Amir Williams' first basket of the game just 27 seconds into the second half. But Mike Bruesewitz replied with a 3-pointer to put Wisconsin back on top.
From there the game settled into a back-and-forth pattern with the teams trading leads until Ohio State started to assert control with 5:30 to play.
The game was the last to be completed on Selection Sunday, with the NCAA tournament field announced shortly after it ended.
"We definitely wanted to leave here with some hardware," said Wisconsin's Bruesewitz. "But we're moving forward, we've got the NCAA Tournament, bigger things. I'm looking forward to that."
The No. 22 Badgers (23-11) earned a No. 5 West Region seed and meet Mississippi (26-8) on Friday at Kansas City. Indiana, which lost to Wisconsin on Saturday, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA East Region.
NOTES: Sunday's Big Ten contenders have made a combined 14 title game appearances. Ohio State leads with nine overall while Wisconsin has made five ... The Badgers claimed championships in 2004 and 2008 while the Buckeyes won in 2007, 2010 and 2011 ... It's been a milestone tourney for Craft, who topped 900 career points with 20 on Saturday against Michigan State and 500 assists with eight versus Nebraska last Friday ... The teams split two regular season meetings. The Buckeyes won 58-49 at home on Jan. 29 while the Badgers were victorious on Feb. 17 at Madison's Kohl Center ... Sunday's meeting was the 151st all-time in the series. Ohio State leads 85-67 ... Every Big Ten session sold out as the tournament drew a collective 124,543 fans to the United Center ... The 2014 finals are back in Indianapolis, and Chicago hosts again in 2015.
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