The tenacious 6-foot point guard his coach calls a “pit bull” drove right to the basket, but instead of putting up his go-to hook shot, Zavier Simpson whipped a pass to the backup big man who became a Michigan folk hero Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Jon Teske’s two-handed slam brought down the house and pretty much finished off No. 8 Purdue in the Big Ten Conference tournament’s championship game.
With Simpson playing catalyst on both ends of the court — running Michigan’s efficient offense and leading its lockdown defense — and Teske scoring a surprising 14 points, the 15th-ranked Wolverines beat the Boilermakers 75-66.
Fifth-seeded Michigan (28-7) became the first team to repeat as Big Ten tournament champion since Ohio State in 2010 and 2011.
Simpson finished with 10 points, five assists and five rebounds.
Moe Wagner led Michigan with 17 points and was selected most outstanding player of the tournament, despite playing only 17 minutes against Purdue because of foul trouble, which plagued him all tournament.
That’s where Teske stepped up. The 7-foot-1 sophomore came in averaging 3.3 points, but scored 12 in the first half and picked up the slack guarding Purdue’s 7-2 center Isaac Haas.
Simpson and Teske put an exclamation point with 6:02 left in the second half. Simpson drove and dished to Teske cutting to the basket. “Big Bad Jon,” as the guys call him, finished over Haas and let out a roar while chest bumping teammates on his way to the bench.
“I was so happy when he popped off after that dunk,” Wagner said. “I got so excited. He got emotional. Yeah, I know how good he is. That was long overdue.”
at No. 25 Houston 81, Connecticut 71: Rob Gray scored 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting for the Cougars (24-6, 14-4 AAC), who finished 15-0 at home. Devin Davis scored 12 points for Houston, which shot 45% from the field and made eight of 20 three-point shots. Jalen Adams scored 22 points for the Huskies (14-17, 7-11), who start the AAC tournament Thursday in Orlando, Fla. The Cougars, who earned a bye, will begin play in Friday’s quarterfinals.
at Radford 55, Liberty 52: Freshman Carlik Jones made a three-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Highlanders a victory in the Big South Conference title game and their first NCAA tournament berth since 2009. Jones had 13 points and six assists for Radford (22-12), which will carry a seven-game winning streak into the NCAA tournament. Scottie James had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Flames (20-14), who lost to Radford for the third time this season.
Lipscomb 108, at Florida Gulf Coast 96: The Bisons had a 32-point lead in the second half of the Atlantic Sun Conference championship game but got a scare before securing their first NCAA tournament berth. Lipscomb (23-9) shot 65% from the field — 87% from two-point range — but had its lead shrink to five points with 7:02 left. Kenny Cooper scored 17 for Lipscomb, which made 15 of its first 18 shots. Zach Johnson led the Eagles (23-11) with 37 points.
No. 8 South Carolina 62, No. 2 Mississippi State 51: A’ja Wilson Wilson had 16 points for the Gamecocks (26-6), who became the first Southeastern Conference women’s program to win four consecutive tournament championships. The Bulldogs (32-1) were held to their lowest point total this season and had their winning streak ended at 32 games.