COLUMBUS, Ohio — Bethune-Cookman coach Vanessa Blair hoped Ohio State would continue its longest losing streak in seven seasons. Deep down she knew that was asking too much.
Jantel Lavender scored 29 points, making 12 of 13 field goals and all five free throws in only 29 minutes of the Buckeyes (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) 86-38 win Sunday.
“We knew coming in here she’s a big-time player so we tried to double her when she got it but she’s obviously used to those sort of things,” Blair said. “Her passing skills to kick the ball out to other players were there so we tried to double her and make it as physical as possible.”
The Buckeyes’ (9-4) three-game skid started against top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 19 and was followed by a home loss to Duquesne and Thursday’s defeat at Michigan in the Big Ten opener.
“Everybody hopes for that Cinderella but when you play a team on a three-game losing streak as good as they are, you know they are hungry to stop the bleeding,” Blair said.
Bethune-Cookman (6-6) had won three straight and led 4-0 but Lavender had Ohio State’s first 11 points and 21 in the first half despite playing only 12 minutes for 46-25 lead at the break. Her only miss was a layup in the first four minutes and she made her final eight shots from the floor.
“We got in transition because we were playing such good defense so Jantel could run,” Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. “We hadn’t been getting that, getting those easy baskets in transition.”
The Wildcats gave away three inches to the 6-foot-4 Lavender and she had little trouble inside.
“It was a refresher after our three losses,” she said.
Lavender took her first break at the 10:44 mark having already scored 15 points. She returned 6 minutes later and scored six points of Ohio State’s next eight for a 40-23 advantage before leaving for the half with 2:05 to play.
Seven of Lavender’s baskets came off feeds from Samantha Prahalis and none was prettier than the no-look, behind-the-head pass off a spin move to put Ohio State up 54-27 early in the second half.
Prahalis, who did not have an assist against Michigan to drop her season average to 7.2, had 10 assists and 10 points.
“I (wanted) just to get back in control of the game and set my teammates up. Get back on track,” Prahalis said. “We played good defense and rebounded. We just got the ball. We were in a good flow, a rhythm.”
Jasmine Daniels had 11 points for the Wildcats, who play at Norfolk State on Saturday.
The Buckeyes host Indiana on Wednesday.
Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach
On getting baskets in transition
“We haven’t been getting the easy baskets in transition. The more often we can score before they get set in defense, the less beat up we’ll be.”
On rebounding from recent loses
“This thing is about accountability; it starts with me then the players. The days the ball doesn’t go in, we have to be playing good defense. If you play hard every day things get taken care of, if you’re tough every day. The daily effort, that’s the accountability part we have to take care of everyday.”
On the importance of toughness heading into league play
“The reality is talk is very cheap. It’s about accountability. We’ve had to learn the hard way, but we’re back on the right track. The one thing we figured out is it’s about work and being tough. Especially in this league, we have to be tough.”
Jantel Lavender, senior center
On what Ohio State can build on from this game
“I think we really can’t get broken down because we still have a target on our back. We need to take this game and emulate what we did in the Big Ten games. Coach said we are really trying to emphasize defense and not let them get past us. It was just a good game to get that feeling back. It was just a refresher to get that confidence back in us.”
Samantha Prahalis, junior guard
On what she wanted to accomplish in this game
“I wanted to get back in control of the game and set my teammates up, and move the ball a little more.”
On what Ohio State did well in the game
“We played pretty good defense and rebounded well. We were just in a flow and a good rhythm. I think its confidence, but I think we’re at a good place where we’re not too confident, so we still work harder.”
Vanessa Blair, Bethune-Cookman head coach
On Jantel Lavender
“Lavender is the Big Ten conference player of the year, so we knew coming in here she’s a big time threat. We tried to double her when she got the ball, but she’s a skilled player and she’s used to that so she passed the ball off.”
On playing Ohio State
“This is a great program, a storied program. We had a great opportunity to have our girls come here and play. Of course every one hopes for that Cinderella story, but when you play a team on a three-game losing streak that’s as good as they are you know they’re hungry to end it.”
On setting up this match-up
“They called us. We were definitely ready for it. It’s good for a team in a conference like ours to step outside the conference. We get a chance to play against big teams and treated with the hospitality They get to play against girls they might see in the WNBA one day.”
On Ohio State’s talent
“I think the point guard is absolutely phenomenal, besides that you would never know they were in a slump because they stick together a lot and don’t get it on themselves.”