INDIANAPOLIS - Iowa guard Theairra Taylor knew she didn’t have much of a driving lane, but it turned out to be just enough.
The little bit of space Taylor found in the Ohio State defense during the final seconds cleared the Hawkeyes a path into the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
Taylor’s improbable layup with 90 seconds remaining, while falling down, propelled Iowa to a 77-73 semifinal win over Ohio State on Saturday. The Hawkeyes will meet Nebraska at noon today in the championship game.
“It's an amazing feeling,” said Taylor, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “I can't think of a better script or a better team to be going to the championship with. I think we deserve it. We work hard, we play team basketball, we play the game the way it's supposed to be played.”
Iowa built double-digit leads in each half, but Ohio State made a run each time. The Hawkeyes (26-7) led 73-65 with five minutes remaining. The Buckeyes (17-18) went on an 8-0 run to tie the game, with Darryce Moore scoring six of those points.
Taylor split Ohio State’s defense on the next possession, scooping in a layup as she fell to the floor.
“She has so much confidence going to the rim,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “She’s having fun and putting no pressure on herself. … I mean she provides me with a lot of ‘wow’ moments, and I love those.”
Iowa (26-7) held double-digit leads in each half, but Ohio State (17-18) rallied to tie the game each time. But the Buckeyes never gained the lead at any point.
“Obviously, great teams make runs and that was a game of runs,” Iowa freshman Ally Disterhoft said. “But I think that we really showed our resiliency, we stuck together as a group and down the stretch we all made plays.”
Taylor’s layup with 90 seconds remaining put Iowa ahead 75-73. Ohio State’s Ameryst Alston missed driving to the basket on the next possession.
Disterhoft was called for a charge 20 seconds later. Officials initially appeared ready to call a blocking call on the Buckeyes. After reviewing the play, the call was ruled a charge.
“They went to the monitor and looked at it, so they got it right,” Bluder said. “I thought Ally would go to the free throw line and I think we were celebrating that she went in there and took a hard foul.”
Ohio State’s Martina Ellerbe missed a 3-pointer from the corner with seven seconds left, and Iowa’s Melissa Dixon hit two free throws to ice the game with 1.8 seconds remaining.
Alston was limited to 20 points, which can be considered an accomplishment after she scored 63 points in Ohio State’s first two games of the tournament.
“She was hurting is a lot and it was her drives to the basket that were so strong,” Bluder said. “We started to have to switch every single thing. At the beginning of the game we were only going to switch through ball screens and we just had to switch every pitch, every handoff, every single thing.”
The Buckeyes hit 10 3-pointers in the first half of an upset over Penn State on Friday. Iowa limited Ohio State to 3 of 16 shooting from beyond the arc.
Disterhoft put together her third consecutive solid game of the tournament, finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds against Ohio State. The freshman is averaging 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds over the first three games of the tournament.
“She’s not playing like a freshman, is she,” Bluder said. “She's playing like a seasoned player. She is playing with authority out there. She is not scared and not backing down to anybody.”Bethany Doolittle had 18 points for Iowa, while Dixon added 16 points and made four 3-pointers. Alston’s 20 points led Ohio State, while Darryce Moore and Ellerbe each added 15 points.