COLUMBUS, Ohio – No. 20 Ohio State isn’t back to its dominant self yet. But it took a small step toward getting there.
Samantha Prahalis broke out of a shooting slump with 23 points and Jantel Lavender had a career-high 22 rebounds to go with 22 points to lead the Buckeyes to an 83-65 win over Indiana on Wednesday night.
They had lost four of six after climbing to No. 6 in The Associated Press poll with a 7-0 start to the season.
“We were like a boxer and we just kept getting smacked around, just one shot after another,” coach Jim Foster said of the way his team had been playing. “Finally we just got so ticked off at it we decided we were going to fight back.”
Prahalis made 9 of her 14 shots after missing 17 of her previous 21 over the last two games, invigorating the offense.
“I just shot when I was open and they happened to go in,” she said.
Lavender did the dirty work inside, grabbing almost ever rebound, blocking shots and having her way. Her rebound total matched the third most in Ohio State history.
“I was boxing out and releasing and just following the ball and it was coming into my hands,” she said. “I just kept doing the same things. I tried to rebound extremely hard because my offense wasn’t as great. So I had to compensate in other ways.”
Tayler Hill added 12 points and Amber Stokes 10 for the Buckeyes (10-4, 1-1), winner of the last six Big Ten titles.
Jori Davis had 21 points and Whitney Lindsay 20 for Indiana (8-7, 2-1).
It was a big breakout for Prahalis, who was coming off the worst Big Ten game of her career.
In a surprising 64-51 loss at Michigan in the Big Ten opener last Thursday – ending the Buckeyes’ 14-game winning streak in the series – Prahalis hit just 1 of 13 shots from the field and didn’t have an assist in 27 frustrating minutes.
She didn’t start off well against Indiana, either. She had no points, no assists and five turnovers in the opening 7 minutes before finally calming down.
Indiana cut into a 13-point halftime deficit with an 8-2 run to start the second half. But Prahalis hit the next basket and added a 3-pointer to end a 13-6 spurt to put the Buckeyes ahead 46-33.
Foster and his players all credited defense for turning the tide.
“Defense – I can’t say it enough – we’re starting to understand the significance of it because offense is a selective deal,” he said. “It can come and go. But if you’re guarding like crazy and (have) a lot of energy going, then the game doesn’t get away from you. Then when it clicks and you start making shots, now that’s when you can extend the lead.”
The Buckeyes got a charge out of Stokes, daughter of former Ohio State star Ron Stokes. She forced turnovers and was aggressive to the hoop, helping the Buckeyes pull away in just 15 minutes on the court.
“When coach Foster looks down the bench and he looks at me, I know the one thing I need to do when I come in and that’s play defense,” she said. “My offense will come, but I know I need to pressure the ball and that’ll get us fastbreaks.”
Both teams were sleepwalking through the early part of the game; with 8 minutes left in the half they were each 5 for 17 from the field and 0 for 5 behind the arc.
The rest of the half, however, the Buckeyes hit 8 of 14 shots from the field to take the lead for good. They broke away from a 16-15 lead with 6 minutes left in the half with a 16-4 run. Six players scored in the spurt, with Prahalis and Hill each scoring four points.
Lavender had 13 rebounds at the break as Ohio State controlled the boards, 29-16. Georgie Jones did her part with 10 rebounds – finishing with 14 – for the Hoosiers. The Buckeyes ended up winning the battle on the glass, 36-26.
The Buckeyes improved to 8-1 at home. They’ve won 117 of their last 120 games at home against unranked opponents.
And they quieted doubters who wondered if they had lost their magic touch in the Big Ten.
Lavender said it was dedication to hard work that was the missing ingredient.
“Once we got after it defensively and we realized we were getting stops, we were getting rebounds, pushing to get fastbreaks more often, it just pumped us up a lot more,” she said. “Our team realized we have to get after it defensively early so we can have more fun and get more fastbreak layups and get those trailing 3s and do those little things we did today.”
• Ohio State leads the all-time series with Indiana, 46-21, and has a 25-5 advantage in Columbus where IU has not won since Jan. 31, 2002.
• Ohio State has won 117 of its last 120 games at home against unranked opponents.
• Ohio State is 135-11 at home overall under Jim Foster and 108-7 since the start of 2004-05.
• Ohio State is averaging 74.6 points per game this season. They have scored 70 or more nine times, at least 80 seven times and one 90-point game in a 95-84 win over No. 11 Oklahoma.
• Ohio State is 9-0 this season when scoring 70+ points and 1-4 when scoring fewer. They went 25-0 last season when scoring 70 or more and 6-5 when scoring fewer.
• The Buckeyes have now hit at least one three-pointer in 67 consecutive games.
• Ohio State has made more free throws (235) than opponents have attempted (183) this season. Ohio State is 10-2 this year and 79-8 over the last three-plus years when they make more than their opponents at the line.
• Since the start of Ohio State’s Big Ten championship run in 2004-05, the Buckeyes are 49-3 in Big Ten games at Value City Arena.
• Jantel Lavender set a Value City Arena record with 22 rebounds, the most by a Buckeye since Martha Baker in 1976.
• Lavender entered the game vs. the Hoosiers the second-leading active scorer in the nation (2,387) behind UConn’s Maya Moore.
• Lavender has scored 10+ points in all 116 career games, the longest active streak in Division I.
• Samantha Prahalis scored a season-high 23 points in 39 minutes of action.
• Amber Stokes’ 10 points was a career best. Stokes’ previous high was an eight-point effort vs. UNC Wilmington Nov. 28. She also tied her career-best in FGs made with four.
Jim Foster, Ohio State Head Coach
On the importance of defense
“I think the first-half defense said enough and we’re starting to understand the significance. Offense is a selective deal. It can come and go and always has been relative to the game, but if your guarding like crazy and have a lot of energy going the game doesn’t get away from you. Then when it clicks and you start making shots, that’s when you can extend the lead.”
On Amber Stokes’ game
“Her energy on defense is terrific. It’s a good thing for us because it gives different looks that we can throw at another point guard. We can throw five or six people at various lengths and quickness with their feet. I just think Amber is finally healthy and finally out there and she’ll continue to get better.”
On the importance of this game
“I think every game we play the rest of the season is important. I can’t emphasize that enough to be there every day and do the little things every day. I go back to the Michigan game, I think we woke up. I think we understood the intensity. We were like a boxer getting smacked around one shot after another. Finally we got so ticked off at it we decided we were going to fight back. That night the ball wasn’t falling in the ocean, but the intensity was there.”
On the lack of offense for Brittany Johnson
“Brittany’s job tonight was defense. We didn’t need her to score a lot, we needed her to guard and disrupt the Davis girl. I thought she did a great job at that and made her work real hard for her shots.”
Amber Stokes, sophomore guard
On her job
“Well I know when Coach Foster looks down the bench at me I need to come in and play defense. My offense will come, but I need to come in and pressure the ball and get in the defense.”
On working on her game
“I need to work on penetrating and taking my time on my shots and finishing them.”
On her role as a defensive player
“I love playing defense, so when Coach Foster puts me in the game I’m always to pressure.”
Jantel Lavender, senior center
On setting the VCA rebounding record
“I’m pleased. I was boxing out well and the ball was in my hands. I was also following my shot extremely hard.”
On the team “clicking”
“I think it was the defense that got our energy to pick up. Once we would get out there defensively and get stops it would pump us up. I think our team realized we had to get after it defensively early to get more fast breaks and lay ups.”
On taking pride in her rebounding
“I take a lot of pride in it. I know that when I rebound well my teammates can get fast breaks. I know if I get Samantha [Prahalis] the ball we can get fast break. She’s a great open court player. And we love fast breaks, it’s a lot of fun.”
On the team offensively
“We had a set that we thought would help against their zone and open things up or me. Everyone was crashing and in their spots at the right time. We were knocking down shots because we were hitting the open girls.”
On playing Iowa
“Every game is really important. We have to go into the mindset that we have to play defensively. If we have the mindset about defense like we did tonight then we will play well and the offense will come.”
Samantha Prahalis, junior guard
“Well I thought Brittany [Johnson] and Tayler [Hill] did a really good job guarding the ball. Collectively we did very well. There are still some things we need to work on.”
Felisha Legette-Jack, Indiana head coach
On Ohio State
“They have six Big Ten championships. This means you’re not just going to come out and blow them out in their gym. I have a lot of respect for them, and for the Big Ten Conference. We played a matchup, we pushed the ball and it just didn’t work.”
On Ohio State sophomore guard Amber Stokes
They’re a Top 10 program in the country. They’re going to get the best players in their state. I recruited her and I really wanted her to come to Indiana. I wanted her to do that for us.”