COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jantel Lavender had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Samantha Prahalis added 21 points and 11 assists, and Ohio State beat No. 23/25 Penn State 89-67 on Thursday night at Value City Arena.
With her eighth assist just before halftime, Prahalis broke Jamie Lewis’ career assist record with her 644th helper, marking the second straight game that an OSU record has fallen after Lavender captured the scoring title Sunday at Minnesota.
Tayler Hill tied a career high once again 19 points for the second straight game to help the Buckeyes (16-9, 7-6 Big Ten) win their third straight. Still, Ohio State was eliminated from the contention for its seventh straight regular season conference title when Michigan’s State beat Northwester 74-60. However, the Buckeyes know they have plenty to play for when it comes to positioning for the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
“We have to try and win to get a higher bid in the tournament so we don’t have to play four games (in a row),” Lavender said. “I think our team recognizes the sense of urgency we need to have in these last few games.”
Zhaque Gray and Mia Nickson had 14 points for the Lady Lions (21-7, 10-4), who fell 1 1/2 games behind the Spartans.
Ohio State had a 23-point lead with 14:40 to play. After Penn State pulled within 10, the Buckeyes scored seven consecutive points to increase the advantage to 74-57 with 6 minutes remaining.
Defensively, Ohio State forced a season-high 27 turnovers in handing Penn State its worst loss of the 2010-11 season. The Buckeyes held PSU’s top two scorers, Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley, to just 12 points total.
The Nittany Lions, winless in their last six trips to Columbus, were looking for their first season series sweep since 2000-01.
Ohio State is back in action Sunday at Purdue. The game is slated for 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
• Ohio State dealt Penn State its worse loss of the season with its 89-67 victory. The Buckeye defense also limited Lady Lion leading scorer Maggie Lucas to just eight points on the night and held Alex Bentley to just two points and three shot attempts. Lucas was averaging 16.7 ppg.
• Ohio State is 4-2 against ranked teams this season, defeating No. 9 Michigan State, No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 18 Iowa and No. 23 Penn State, while falling to No. 1 UConn and No. 21 Iowa on the road.
• For just the second time this season, an Ohio State opponent shot 50 percent or better. UConn was exactly .500 from the field in Ohio State’s 81-50 loss.
• Ohio State forced a season-high 27 turnovers vs. Penn State. During the Buckeyes’ past three games they have forced their opponents to turn the ball over a total of 65 times (22 vs. Purdue, 16 at Minnesota).
• Ohio State has scored 70 or more points 15 times, at least 80 10 times and has had two 90-point games in a 95-84 win over No. 11 Oklahoma and a 90-67 win over Purdue Feb. 10.
• Ohio State is 139-13 at home overall under Jim Foster and 112-9 since the start of 2004-05.
• After surpassing Katie Smith as Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer at Minnesota Feb. 13, Jantel Lavender added to her total with 23 points vs. the Lady Lions, bringing her career total to 2,610 points.
• Lavender is the second-leading active scorer in the NCAA (2,610) behind UConn’s Maya Moore (2,796).
• Lavender also owns the NCAA record with 10 or more points in 127 consecutive games — every game of her career.
• Scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 boards, Lavender recorded her 14th double-double of the season.
• With 11 assists on the night, Samantha Prahalis broke Jamie Lewis’ school record of 643 career assists. Prahalis now has 647 assists for her career.
• Prahalis also recorded her fifth double-double of the season and second since recording a triple-double Feb. 6 vs. Northwestern. Against Penn State, Prahalis scored 21 points and dished out 11 assists.
• Tayler Hill tied her career high with 19 points. Hill was 6-for-9 from the field in 35 minutes of action.
• Hill has made 32 of her last 34 free throws and 14 straight.
• Ohio State is 14-2 this season when scoring 70+ points and 2-7 when scoring fewer. They went 25-0 last season when scoring 70 or more and 6-5 when scoring fewer.
• Ohio State has made more free throws (410) than opponents have attempted (393) this season. Ohio State is 14-3 this year and 83-9 since the start of the 2007-08 season when they make more than its opponents at the line.
Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach
On the team’s improvement during the last few weeks
“We’re getting better. We have a better understanding of who we are and who we need to be to be a very good basketball team. I think our intensity and focus on defense is better, our attention to detail is better, our freshmen are now playing in a way that it would be difficult to tell they are freshmen.”
On Tayler Hill
“The point with Tayler [Hill] was that if you want to be considered an elite guard in the country then you’re going to have to start doing things on a consistent basis on both ends of the floor. I think she can be an absolutely terrific defensive player, but it takes a while for a kid who was the leading scorer in her state, guys or girls, to understand the other side of the game. But she gets it, which helps us a lot.”
On Ohio State’s recent turnaround
“What people fail to realize is that these kids are 18 to 22. The objective when you come to college is to grow. I think that’s what you’re witnessing, two kids growing up, figuring out their strengths and weaknesses, what they are good at and what they need to be better at.”
On the team’s maturity
“I knew certain things had to happen. At no point in time was I in doubt that we would finish the season strong. We are in there every day, we are watching the team get better, we are watching them interact with each other and start to grow. Most people come and see a two-hour blip and have a lot of opinions, but we see a lot going on behind the scenes that we like.”
Jantel Lavender, senior center
On how the game started
“I think our flow started because of our defensive intensity.”
On the team’s recent wins
“We know how to win. We just turn it up some days. We’re trying to realize who we are.”
On the remainder of the regular season
“We have to try and win to get a higher bid in the tournament so we don’t have to play four games. I think our team recognizes the sense of urgency we need to have in these last few games.”
“No one likes to lose. We’re trying to keep that feeling out of the midst of our team.”
On their upcoming game at Purdue
“I just know we have to go in there and play extremely hard. They get really hyped when they play at home. We just have to get after it from the beginning.”
Samantha Prahalis, junior guard
On the win
“It makes me feel good because we played how I think we can play and I think it all starts on defense and rebounding. I just think that’s how we should play every time.”
On what the team needs to change
“We’ve got to be consistent. It’s just extra focus and knowing what we have to do during the game.”
On why they have more losses this season than in recent years
“We just weren’t clicking all the way. I think we were so used to winning that we took it for granted a little bit. We had to face some adversity to figure it out. Losing is no fun. We knew we had to get back on top and string some wins together.”
Coquese Washington, Penn State head coach
On Penn State’s 27 turnovers
“That was the difference in the game. I think there were a lot of unforced turnovers. We had some bad decisions and looseness with the ball. That was uncalled for, many of them were live. We needed to take care of the ball and we didn’t.”
On the good stretch in the second half
“We took care of the ball and we got aggressive on defense. We caused some turnovers ourselves. We executed better in that stretch.”
On Ohio State’s end to the season
“This is a team that has won and they are used to winning. These players and Jantel (Lavender) aren’t going to quit, they have a desire to finish the season strong. Tayler Hill has stepped up, she is playing good basketball right now, she is being aggressive.”
On Jantel Lavender
“I think Lavender has been a tremendous player in this conference. She started as one of the best players in this conference when she arrived here and has been since she stepped on campus.”