No. 9 Buckeyes edge No. 4 Michigan, make Big Ten title game

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Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell (32) shoots over Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS – Ohio State guard Duane Washington Jr. just wanted a second chance at his home-state team.

On Saturday, the former Michigan prep star made sure it counted.

Washington had 24 points, six rebounds and four assists, helping the No. 9 Buckeyes fend off the fourth-ranked Wolverines for a 68-67 victory and a trip to the Big Ten Tournament title game.

“This rivalry means a lot to a lot of our guys, a lot of our Ohio guys," Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann said. “Even guys like E.J. (Liddell), who has seen what it means to our fans. Duane feels that, he knows what this game means to our fans. It's not football, we understand that. But Duane understands it."

It sure wasn't easy. For the third straight day, the Buckeyes nearly blew a double-digit lead in the second half.

Michigan (20-4) scored the final seven points and Mike Smith even had a chance to win it with a long jumper with 2 seconds left. Instead, it bounced off the back of the rim and time expired in a scramble for the ball.

The Buckeyes (21-8) advance to play No. 3 Illinois on Sunday, seeking their first title since 2013.

For Washington, it was pure joy. After scoring a career-high 30 points in a 92-87 loss to Michigan on Feb. 21, Washington immediately started talking about a rematch. And he didn't disappoint, making 5 of 10 3-pointers.