COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State keeps winning, even if those wins don’t come easily.
Samantha Prahalis scored 23 points and Jantel Lavender added 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the fifth-ranked Buckeyes past stubborn Indiana 81-64 on Sunday.
After rolling over just about everyone during November and December, the Buckeyes (19-1, 7-0 Big Ten) have had to fight and scratch the past three weeks just to hold off their three conference opponents at home.
“I kind of figured that out last year, that a lot of these games are going to be grind-out games,” said Prahalis, who added five assists and three steals. “We want to run, we want to dictate the game. Some games are going to be grind-out, regardless, but we just have to play our game as much as possible.”
Sarah Schulze had 13 points and nine rebounds and Andrea Walker added 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who never trailed but had difficulty pulling away to their 11th win in a row.
“If you stop us one way, then let’s try this and figure out if this will work,” Indiana coach Elisha Legette-Jack said. “The only thing I know is our kids never backed down. There’s some value in that.”
Jori Davis had 17 points, Jamie Braun 11 and Hope Elam 10 for the Hoosiers (9-8, 2-4), who played on even terms for most of the game but could never quite catch up after falling being 8-0.
Prahalis, the reigning Big Ten player of the week, has averaged just over 20 points in her last eight games. She was scoring 13.1 points a game through the first 12 games.
“She’s spent the offseason working very diligently on her footwork,” coach Jim Foster said. “Her mechanics were always fine. Her footwork needed to adjust a little bit. She took that and ran with it.”
Foster moved to 200-48 in eight seasons at Ohio State. He became the second men’s or women’s coach to win at least 200 games at three Division I schools, joining C. Vivian Stringer. Foster is 704-273 at St. Joseph’s, Vanderbilt and Ohio State.
The Buckeyes led 31-26 at the break, scored the first five points of the second half and the lead hovered around eight for most of the rest of the way before Ohio State finally pulled away.
Lavender, a junior who appears on her way to a third straight Big Ten player of the year award, went to the locker room for several minutes to get re-taped after she twisted her ankle on a rebound early in the second half. She returned to play several more minutes with no obvious problems.
Prahalis said it was a daunting moment when the 6-foot-4 Lavender went down.
“I would never, ever want that to happen,” she said. “So when she did go down, that’s a little scary.”
Ohio State added to its impressive list of streaks and successes. The Buckeyes are 15-0 at home this season and have won their last 21 games at Value City Arena, where they are 123-9 under Foster and 96-5 since the start of the 2004-05 season. Since the start of their string of five straight Big Ten titles in 2004-05, they are 44-2 (.957) in Big Ten home games and 79-12 (.868) in Big Ten play overall. Ohio State has won 24 of its last 25 regular-season games and is 29-2 overall dating to last season.
“They’re a very good team and they’ve got different weapons they can beat you with,” Legette-Jack said. “The press is one way, their size is another way, their ability is another way. Our team adjusted in one capacity but we have to continue to learn to adjust in others.”
The Buckeyes were less than thrilled with their performance. They had 23 turnovers and shot only 45 percent for the game despite a 55-29 upper hand on the boards. Indiana was playing its fourth game without center Sasha Chaplin, out with a foot injury.
“We had way too many turnovers,” Schulze said. “That’s something to work on, something to tighten up. That needs to go away.”
While Lavender was getting treatment on her ankle, Prahalis said there was plenty of room for improvement.
“We did a lot of good stuff; we did some stuff we need to work on, too, though,” she said.
Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach
On the differences between the first and second halves
“In the first half, our guards took some quick shots. The numbers show our post players are going to have good opportunities, but we were rushing. In the second half, we pushed the ball and changed the tempo.”
On Samantha Prahalis’ increasing shooting percentage
“She has worked on her footwork very diligently. Her mechanics were fine. Feet determine the quality of your shots sometimes.”
On Andrea Walker’s 11 rebounds
“She played aggressively. The Big Ten is a physical league and when she plays aggressively, big things happen.”
Samantha Prahalis, sophomore guard
On the team’s performance
“I think we did pretty well overall. We got some rebounds when we needed and did other things when we had to, but we still need to work on things. We need to play at our tempo instead of our opponent. We just need to stay focused on our game.”
On how the team plays without Jantel Lavender in the game
“With Jantel, it’s easy to go inside. I know if I give her the ball in the post she is going to score. I feel comfortable when she’s in the game, but it’s really not that different from the other post players. I feel comfortable with them all.”
Sarah Schulze, junior forward
On teammate Samantha Prahalis
“Sammy is great. I don’t know what other teams are going to do to defend her. I’m just glad I don’t have to guard her. She can make any shot or any pass.”
On the atmosphere of the home crowd
“It’s always nice when our fans come out and show their support. Even when they don’t come out, the fans that come are always loud. It’s always fun because they always get into the game no matter what.”
Felisha Legette-Jack, Indiana head coach
On handling Ohio State’s pressure
“They can beat you in multiple ways. Their press game, their size and their ability are all factors. We have to continue to learn how to adjust to all parts of their game.”
On the performance of Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis
“I have a lot of respect for both of those players. We have to grow our program to match up with them. They’re fantastic players that we have to learn how to defend.”
On Indiana’s resiliency
“I’m very proud of our resiliency today. We kept attacking and we kept going, even with all of the pressure they put on us. One of our seniors, Jamie Braun, has done some amazing things in her four years here. It’s her ability to keep her head above water that I want to build in all of the young ladies in our program.”