March 5, 2006
No. 1 Ohio State (27-2) and No. 2 Purdue (25-5) will face off in the 12th championship final in Big Ten Tournament history. Since 2001, the tournament's title game has been decided by six points or less, including three or fewer in 2002, 03 and 04.
Ohio State advanced to the championship game with a 64-46 quarterfinal win over Penn State and a 68-64 semifinal win over Michigan State. Purdue beat Illinois 68-57 in the quarterfinals before eliminating Indiana, 67-41, in the semifinals.
Recent history has shown that winning the Big Ten Tournament breeds success for conference teams in the NCAA Tournament. Since 1995, the teams that have won the event have combined to post a 25-10 (.714) record in the NCAA Championship. After winning the Big ten Tournament as the No. 1 seed in 2005, Michigan State advanced all the way to the national finals.
The last time the Boilermakers were in the championship game was at the 2004 tourney, when then-No. 2 Purdue defeated then-No. 1 Penn State, 59-58. Ohio State's last championship appearance was in 2003 when the fourth seeded Buckeyes fell to then-No. 3 Purdue, 67-65.
The last time the No. 1 and 2 seeds have met in the tournament was in 2004. It only happened one other time in Big Ten Tournament history, when No. 2 Iowa defeated No. 1 Purdue, 75-70. In the end, No. 2s are 2-0 all-time against No. 1s at the event.
Ohio State and Purdue last met at the Big Ten Tournament in 2004, with No. 2 Purdue topping No. 3 Ohio State in the semifinal game, 67-67.
Ohio State is ranked fifth in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches and Associated Press Polls (Feb. 27), while Purdue sits at No. 11/14. The Buckeyes are 7-2 against ranked opponents this year, including Sunday's win over No. 17/16 Michigan State. OSU's ranked victims this year include Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Michigan State (three times), Minnesota and Purdue. The Buckeyes have fallen to No. 3 LSU and then-No. 18 Purdue this year.
Purdue is 5-2 against ranked foes this year. The Boilers downed Notre Dame, Ohio State, Minnesota (twice) and Michigan State this season, but fell to then-No. 14 DePaul on Dec. 3, 2005 and Ohio State on Feb. 23.
OSU is currently riding an 18-game winning streak. The run includes at 67-58 victory over Purdue in the teams' last meeting Feb. 23 in Columbus, Ohio. Monday's championship game will serve as the season's rubber-match, as Purdue won 61-59 in the series' first game Jan. 1. The New Year's Day game is the last time the Buckeyes lost.
In Purdue's win over Ohio State on Jan. 1, senior Aya Traore notched 23 points. The Boilers held two-time Player of the Year Jessica Davenport to just 10 points in the contest, but Buckeye Marscilla Packer stepped up with 19 as a reserve. When Ohio State topped Purdue on Feb. 23, OSU had three players in double-digits, including Davenport (20), Brandie Hoskins (19) and Debbie Merrill (13).
The Buckeyes are 17-11 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament, including a 3-1 mark as the No. 1 seed. Purdue is 22-6 all-time at the tournament, best among all 11 teams.
Ohio State has never won a Big Ten Tournament title, while Purdue is aiming for its sixth post-season conference trophy, and third in four years. The Boilermakers were victorious in the 1998, 99, 2000, 03 and 04 tournaments.
Ohio State head coach Jim Foster earned his 100th victory at the helm of the Buckeye program with Sunday's win over Michigan State. Foster, currently in his fourth season, is 6-3 all-time at the Big Ten Tournament.
Monday's final will feature six players from the state of Indiana, including three from Indianapolis. Ohio State boasts two Hoosiers on its roster in Ashley Allen (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Candace Dark (Kingman, Ind.). Purdue has four in-state players, including Katie Geralds (Beech Grove, Ind.), Sharika Webb (Indianapolis, Ind.), Jodi Howell (Alexandria, Ind.) and Ashley Mays (Indianapolis, Ind.).
Upperclassmen should rule the court in Monday's matchup. Ohio State starts two fifth-year seniors (Debbie Merrill and Ashley Allen) and two juniors (Jessica Davenport and Brandie Hoskins), while Purdue's starting five includes seniors Sharika Webb and Aya Traore, and juniors Katie Geralds and Erin Lawless.
OSU's Jessica Davenport needs five blocks in the championship game to set the single-tournament record of 11 held by Indiana's Angela Hawkins. Davenport notched all six of her 2006 Big Ten Tournament blocks in Ohio State's win over Michigan State. She is already the tournament career blocks leader with 19.
The 2006 Big Ten Tournament has drawn 29,969 fans thus far, already surpassing the all-time total tournament average of 28,556. The event will need to draw 7,666 fans Monday night to beat the Big Ten Tournament record of 37,635 set in 2004. A total of 8,780 fans attended Sunday's semifinal session.