Buckeyes back in win column, Allen adds 13 points and 10 boards
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Last year Jantel Lavender was the Big Ten’s player and freshman of the year — the first time anyone has ever won both awards in the same season.
She’s playing as if she wants to make that player of the year award the first of four.
Lavender, the conference’s leader in both categories, had 30 points and 12 rebounds to lead No. 19 Ohio State past Illinois 68-51 Thursday night.
“Hands down, Jantel Lavender is one of the best players not just in the Big Ten but in the country,” Illinois coach Jolette Law said.
Lavender finished 15 of 24 from the field. The rest of the Buckeyes were just 14 of 36.
Lavender had 18 points at the half as the Buckeyes grabbed a 36-27 lead. Aggressively looking for shots and grabbing almost every available rebound, she made 9 of 15 shots and also had eight rebounds.
“I was taking my time and the shots were falling,” the sophomore from Cleveland said.
Jenna Smith had 19 points and Lydia McCully 11 for Illinois (4-16, 0-9), which lost its 10th straight.
Star Allen added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Ohio State (15-3, 6-1), which had rolled over the Illini 67-35 on the road 11 days ago.
Allen was almost invisible in her last game against Minnesota. She had two points and three rebounds in 26 minutes in the loss.
“That was a lot of motivation,” she said. “I played a bad game against Minnesota (last week) and I had to pick it up.”
This time Law changed things up by not doubling down on Lavender, choosing instead to play tough matchup defense and preventing the fastbreaks that had resulted in that lopsided loss.
“A lot of it was me being guarded by Jenna,” Lavender said. “It was a lot of one-on-one post moves. Most of the time we see a lot of double-teams. But they didn’t send too many doubles.”
Shavelle Little, last year’s Big Ten defensive player of the year, missed the loss to the Golden Gophers after injuring a knee. She returned to play 13 minutes.
The Buckeyes bounced back from the rare home loss, 59-56 to Minnesota. That ended an eight-game winning streak and a string of 86 consecutive home victories over unranked opponents.
“We did a good job of taking what they gave us, which is different than 11 days ago,” Ohio State coach Jim Foster said.
He declined to say that his team had any more motivation or incentive after the loss to Minnesota.
“You just go play the next game,” he said. “There’s too much talk. You pull your shorts up and move your feet. The game’s pretty simple.”
Unlike the first game, the Illini stuck around. In the loss at home to Ohio State, they had trailed just 27-20 at the half but were outscored 40-15 in the second half.
Down 8-6 early, the Buckeyes took the lead for good with a 7-0 run. Samantha Prahalis had a three-point play, Ashlee Trebilcock hit a 12-foot baseline jumper and Lavender scored inside.
Law said she knew Lavender was going to have a big game the first time the Buckeyes came down the floor.
“Jantel was in a groove,” Law said. “Once she hit that first shot from 19 feet, I knew she was going to be tough to stop.”
Illinois cut what had been a 16-point lead to 55-47 on a three-point play by Smith with 5:19 left. But the Buckeyes countered with two free throws by Allen, a perimeter jumper by Sarah Schulze and Maria Moeller’s three-point play to push the lead back to 62-47 with 3:53 left.
“We cut it to eight with (under) 6 minutes left,” Law said. “I’m such a competitor. I said, ‘C’mon, ladies. Smell blood. Continue to compete.’ But we turned it over and didn’t execute on a couple of possessions in a row. It unraveled from there.”
The Buckeyes play six of their next nine on the road, but Foster was only concerned about the next one.
“We’re at Purdue Sunday,” was all he said.
Ohio State is back in action Sunday at Purdue at 5 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN2 and can be heard on Buckeye Vision at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Illinois, 38-17, and sweep the season series after a 67-35 win in Champaign Jan. 12. Ohio State leads 20-3 in games played in Columbus. The last UI win in Columbus was Jan. 11, 2001.
Ohio State has now won nine of its last 10 overall.
Head coach Jim Foster is 84-21 in Big Ten regular-season games at Ohio State.
Ohio State has won 37 of its last 39 Big Ten regular-season games at home and 69 of its last 79 overall.
The Buckeyes are now 103-9 at home under Jim Foster and 76-5 since the start of the 2004-05 season.
Jantel Lavender finished with a season-high 30 points and tied a career-high with 15 field goals. She also had 12 rebounds for her league-leading 14th double-double of the season. It was the 27th of her career with Ohio State going 22-5 in those games.
Lavender has scored in double figures in all 49 career games, the sixth-longest active streak in Division I.
Lavender leads the Big Ten with 13 games of 20 or more points this season.
Lavender now 936 career points in 49 games and can tie Katie Smith as the fastest Ohio State women’s player to score 1,000 points. Smith was the fastest at 52 games while Frani Washington did it in 56. Lavender needs to average 21.3 points over the next three games to tie Smith.
Ohio State did not make a 3-pointer for the first time since Nov. 25, 2007 in a loss to Auburn at St. John Arena.
Ohio State is 13-1 this season when they equal or make more from the free throw line. Each team made 10 Thursday night.
The Buckeyes are 13-0 this season when leading at the half.
Jim Foster, Ohio State Head Coach
On practice this week
“Our post players got a lot of action in the game today. We looked much better than 11 days ago. Ashlee and Shavelle haven’t really practiced much to get their legs under them this week. Shavelle was a little tired. She let some girls run by her. She needs to get out there and get her wind. Ashlee hasn’t practiced all week and you could tell, but she is healthy.”
“I was happy with it most of the time. I thought we could have had more energy for longer periods of time. We need that intensity the entire game.”
On the bench playing
“The girls coming off the bench had good energy. Walker played the best defense she has all year. She was out on the perimeter with smaller girls. We know Sarah is getting better … we see her do it in practice everyday.”
Jantel Lavender, sophomore center
On the game
“I was more aggressive in the first half. I was taking my time and shots were falling. There was a lot more one-on-one defense. Most of the time I’ve been double teamed, but tonight it was mainly one post player guarding me. My teammates did a good job finding me.”
On not playing for a week
“I was excited and ready to play because we had a week off. Illinois came ready to play and they played hard. My enthusiasm on the court came from not playing for a week.”
Star Allen, senior forward
On the game
“I had a lot of motivation after the loss against Minnesota. I had a bad game and as far as being a senior, I knew I had to step it up. Illinois came out though and played an aggressive game.”
Jolette Law, Illinois Head Coach
On the game
“I give a lot of credit to Ohio State. They played great. We stopped them from making three’s, but they always find a way to get it done. Jantel Lavender is not only one of the best in the Big Ten, but the entire country.”
On Illinois’ defense
“For 32 minutes, I thought we played good defense. We paid attention to our scouting report. When Jantel hit that first 18-footer, I knew she was on and that we were in trouble.”
On her team
“I’m pleased with our performance. We were great at guarding the three. When we cut it to eight, I thought we could do it, but we made turnovers at crucial times and it unraveled from there.”