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INDIANAPOLIS — No. 10 Ohio State finally started guarding Alyssa Karel, and it was enough for the Buckeyes to reach the Big Ten championship game.

The Buckeyes withstood a career-high 31 points from Karel and beat the Badgers 82-73 in a Big Ten tournament semifinal Saturday.

Karel made all five of her 3-pointers for Wisconsin, but she was held without a field goal for the final 6:47.

“We started trapping the screen and roll pretty hard and rotating defensively pretty hard,” Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. “In the first half, they were beating us off the dribble. And we just — I think it became more personal.”

While Wisconsin got an exceptional effort from its junior guard, Ohio State’s one-two punch of 6-foot-4 center Jantel Lavender and 5-7 point guard Samantha Prahalis performed as usual. Prahalis scored 29 points and Lavender added 27. The Buckeyes (29-4) will defend their tournament championship Sunday against Iowa (19-12), which beat Michigan State 59-54 in the early game.

Prahalis and Lavender combined to make 24 of 27 free throws while Wisconsin’s team made 14 of 19. Foster said his team has had similar advantages in free throw attempts for most of the season because his team has been aggressive.

“It just makes us a hard team to guard,” Foster said. “We really get to the foul line. We’ve made a huge number more foul shots than our opponents have attempted. It’s a significant number and it’s always something we strive for.”

The Buckeyes trailed by seven points in the second half before rallying.

“It just shows the greatness that our team has and the potential we have to be an extremely great team,” Lavender said. “The fact that we dug deep as a team just shows our poise and how tough our team is.”

Prahalis made four 3-pointers in the game and all 11 of her free throws in the second half.

Lavender, the Big Ten player of the year, also had nine rebounds and three blocks. She struggled early, but went 5 for 9 from the field and 9 for 10 from the free throw line for 19 points in the second half.

Tayler Hill added 14 points and six rebounds for Ohio State, which won all three games against Wisconsin this season.

Lin Zastrow scored 14 points and Teah Gant added 12 for the Badgers (21-8).

Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said her team gained confidence, despite the loss.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my basketball team,” she said. “They left it on the court, they played their hearts out. This game was an Elite Eight game. It was two very, very good teams going back and forth. Ohio State is a very, very good team, but our basketball team should be in that same conversation.”

The Badgers shot 46 percent a day after shooting 51 percent in a 73-51 win over Purdue.

“They played great on offense, they drove us, they were hitting shots,” Prahalis said. “Wisconsin played really good, so we just needed to grind it out.”

Wisconsin made five of its first seven shots to take an early 13-9 lead.

Lavender picked up her second foul with 7:15 left in the first half and Wisconsin leading 28-24. The Buckeyes hung tough without her, but Wisconsin shot 55 percent in the first half to lead 41-37 at the break.

It was a well-played first half, with six ties and just seven turnovers between the teams. Karel scored 14 points for the Badgers, while Prahalis scored 11 for the Buckeyes.

A 3-pointer by Karel rattled in and gave Wisconsin a 46-39 lead early in the second half.

Ohio State responded with a 7-0 run, including a 3-point play by Lavender, that tied the score at 46.

The Buckeyes took the lead when Prahalis made a 3-pointer from the left wing to give Ohio State a 62-60 lead with just over nine minutes to play.

The lead seesawed until the final minutes, but Ohio State began to pull away after Prahalis converted a 3-point play to give the Buckeyes a 78-72 lead with 1:42 left. Wisconsin shot over 50 percent for most of the game, but didn’t make a field goal for the final 4:17.

“We just needed to get stops,” Prahalis said. “Every time we met in the huddle, it was, ‘We got to get stops, we got to get stops.’ It must have been said a thousand times.”

Foster said those stops must come earlier against Iowa.

“We won’t play zone,” Foster said. “They move it and shoot it too well. We got to make them earn their points, and we can’t wait until halftime tomorrow.”

Postgame Notes

  • Ohio State advances to its sixth Big Ten tournament championship game and its fourth in the past five years.
  • OSU is 11-2 in its last 13 Big Ten tournament games.
  • The Buckeyes set a Big Ten Tournament record with their 34 made free throws. The previous record was 29 by Indiana against Illinois during the 2002 tournament.
  • The Buckeyes are 26-3 this year and 68-5 over the last three years when they make more than their opponents at the line.
  • Ohio State made 20 more free throws than the Badgers on Saturday. The Buckeyes have now converted 139 more free throws (542) then opponents have attempted (403).
  • Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis combined to score 56 of Ohio State’s 82 points. It is the highest point total for two players in all games played by Big Ten teams this year.
  • Samantha Prahalis led the Buckeyes with 29 points. Prahalis converted 11-of-11 free throws, which ties a tournament record for free throw percentage. She shares the record with Penn State’s Tanisha Wright (10-of-10 during the 2002 tournament) and, Purdue’s Shereka Wright (10-of-10 during the 2004 tournament).
  • Jantel Lavender finished with 27 points and has now scored in double figures in all 99 career games, the longest active streak in Division I.
  • Lavender now has 1,969 career points, good for third on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list in only her junior season. She is 31 points shy of 2,000.
  • Ohio State is 44-14 all-time against the Badgers and has won the last 17 meetings overall.
  • Saturday was the fourth meeting between Ohio State and Wisconsin at the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes are 4-0 against the Badgers in the tournament.
  • Seniors Shavelle Little, Andrea Walker, Maria Moeller and Cherise Daniel have 108 career wins, one shy from tying the program record of 109 set by the class of 2008.
  • Head Coach Jim Foster is 13-5 all-time at the Big Ten tournament.
  • The Buckeyes have reached the tournament championship game in five out of eight years under Foster.
  • OSU is 7-2 this season when trailing at the half.
  • Freshman guard Tayler Hill added 14 points and six rebounds for Ohio State.
  • The Buckeyes have connected on a school-record 217 three-pointers this season.