COLUMBUS, Ohio – No team, men’s or women’s, had ever won six straight Big Ten basketball titles until No. 7 Ohio State turned the trick on Thursday night.
That hallowed accomplishment meant, well, almost nothing to coach Jim Foster.
“We’ll talk about it after the season,” he said after the seventh-ranked Buckeyes’ 75-45 victory over Purdue. “It’s about the next game, it’s about getting better. All the other stuff, if you take care of that, good stuff happens. We have some talented players. We have a mindset that’s starting to evolve at the defensive end of the floor. That other stuff will be summer discussion.”
Jantel Lavender had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Buckeyes (24-3, 12-2) held Purdue scoreless for more than 12 minutes to coast to the win just 17 days after the Boilermakers had shocked them 63-61.
Lavender said she and her teammates felt that the Boilermakers (13-12, 8-6) did too much talking after that upset.
“You don’t want teams thinking that they can come in and contend with you,” she said. “I take it personally when people (say) that they killed us or they did such-and-such to the post players or they drove on our guards or whatever. The fact that they came in here and were extra confident with a two-point win at their place, I really took that personally.”
Tayler Hill added 14 points and Samantha Prahalis had nine points and 11 assists for the Buckeyes who ran their home record to 18-0 — the best in program history.
“We never want a team thinking almost like they could play with us here,” Prahalis said.
No one scored in double figures for Purdue (led by KK Houser’s nine points), which had two lengthy scoring droughts in the first half even before going 12:20 without scoring a point and going almost 14 minutes without a field goal over another span.
“Ohio State came ready to play today,” Houser said. “They were knocking down their shots and they were getting us in transition defense.”
Purdue had won two in a row and four of five but shot just 23 percent from the field and had 19 turnovers. The Buckeyes shot 57 percent in taking a 41-16 lead at the half and ended up shooting 52 percent.
“They shot 80 percent for the first 10 minutes,” Boilermakers coach Sharon Versyp said. “What are you going to do?”
In the earlier loss at Purdue, the Buckeyes roared to a 16-0 lead over the first 6:40 and still lost. This time they got off to almost as fast a start and then maintained it, with Foster bringing in players off the bench and the margin mounting.
“When everyone gets involved and everyone can score and everyone can rebound, it’s such a confidence builder not for just one person but the whole team,” Prahalis said. “It contagious once everyone gets into the mix.”
Ohio State broke out to leads of 9-2 and 26-6 and then scored the final 13 points of the half — which was extended to 21-0 when they rattled off the first eight points after the break.
“We were ready, intense, and everybody had an attitude,” Hill said. “Everybody took (the loss at Purdue) personal. We wanted to make a statement, not only about that loss but also that we were a top team.”
Through the first 8 minutes, the Buckeyes were 11 of 13 from the field and hit all four 3-pointers. In the opening 13:39, they were 16 of 20 from the field.
“It didn’t matter what we did,” Versyp said. “They were good.”
The accuracy behind the arc was similar to what Ohio State showed in a come-from-behind 86-73 win at Penn State on Sunday. In that game, the Buckeyes trailed by 15 points but made a Big Ten-record 17 3-pointers (out of just 26 attempts) to power their comeback.
Ohio State improved to 126-9 at home overall in Foster’s eight seasons and 99-5 since the start of the 2004-05 season.
The Buckeyes, and Foster, have everything going their way. All five starters are underclassmen, there are several top reserves returning and there’s another bumper crop of talent in the latest recruiting class.
“(Jim) is an incredible coach, they’ve got great recruits and Ohio State’s a pretty good place to sell,” Versyp said. “You have to get good players and then you have to coach your players. They’ve done a great job.”
Sharon Versyp, Purdue head coach
On whether or not Purdue’s game plan was to stop Ohio State’s three-point shooting or Jantel Lavender
“It was a combination, nothing worked. They were forcing outside shots and we could not get to the hole.”
On Purdue’s defense
“Once a team gets ahead by 18 or 20 points, you have to play man. They scored off our turnovers. What we did well at home, we did not do well tonight.”
On beating Ohio State at Purdue
“You play better at home. At home, you play to the crowd. You play better and with great energy. We knew they were going to come after us. We beat them the first time and we knew they were going to come after us. They have everything going for them.”
On the loss
“It’s not easy. We have to be in charge of where we are at and we cannot rely on other people. We will move on, but it’s not acceptable what happened tonight.”
On the second half
“I felt good about the second half. When a team has that big of a lead, they have no pressure. Our kids never give up. When you have young kids, you have to instill the heart and the battle. Some teams will quit, but our team will never quit.”
On Ohio State’s continuous dominance of the Big Ten
“Jim’s a great coach. They have great recruits and Ohio State is a pretty good place to sell. You have to get players and then you have to coach your players and they’ve done a great job.”
KK Houser, freshman guard
On the game
“We don’t have a choice. We have to come into practice and be ready for Penn State on Sunday. We did not come out ready to play. We allowed a lot of transition layups and fast break points. We did not come to play tonight.”
Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach
On Ohio State’s defense the past week
“I think we forced the issues against Iowa in terms of tempo. We didn’t guard the way we liked to. In the Penn State game and the second half tonight we had an attitude about defense as well as the tempo tonight. We have been striving for that all season. I am starting to get happy with our defense.”
On the differences between the loss at Purdue and tonight
“We did a couple things defensively. Our guards are a lot quicker getting under screens. Our post players are more focused on putting a body on someone. We paid more attention to detail than we did at West Lafayette.”
On Jantel Lavender
“She helps us become better. There is a lot of confidence that our team has because she’s out there with us. We know she’s going to rebound the ball which allows us to get down there low. We knew she’s going to score and get the fouls. We like that.”
On Amber Stokes
“Amber’s starting to come around. She’s just starting to get into form and she came into practice the last three or four weeks with intensity. Her quickness we love. What I liked about Amber tonight was her defense. Getting in front of people, getting back and getting ready. She’s becoming much more consistent at both ends of the floor.”
On the team as a whole
“I think we took a big step at State College at halftime. We just made more of a commitment to defense and I think it carried over. We changed our whole demeanor and it has carried over. I saw it tonight and need to see it the rest of the year.”
Jantel Lavender, junior center
On shooting 52 percent for the game
“I think we can play like that more often; playing extra hard defense, reversing the ball and executing. We set the tone for defense and it proved we are a top contending team.”
On winning at least a share of the Big Ten title
“This was the first short-term goal. We want to seal the deal in the next two games. Then win the Big Ten Tournament.”
Samantha Prahalis, sophomore guard
On shooting 52 percent from the field
“It feels great. It is a big momentum boost when we get everyone involved. Rebounding and scoring becomes contagious.”
Tayler Hill, freshman guard
On the game at Purdue vs. the game in tonight
“I think we came out tonight with different mindset. We were intense and we needed to make a statement.
On winning her first regular-season Big Ten title
I think it’s an accomplishment for the team and myself.