Lavender’s 20-point effort helps Buckeyes cruise after early run
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — After Ohio State won a fourth straight Big Ten title last season, coach Jim Foster took an extraordinary step.
He started over.
Faster, more aggressive and more athletic, the 17th-ranked Buckeyes are making Foster’s makeover look like a stroke of genius.
Jantel Lavender scored 20 points to hit double figures for the 45th game in a row and the Buckeyes took command early to beat Michigan State 67-49 on Sunday.
With Shavelle Little, the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year, triggering a cloying, pressure-oriented defense, and freshman point guard Samantha Prahalis at the controls of a fastbreaking offense, the Buckeyes (12-2, 3-0 Big Ten) are more intimidating than ever.
“They play faster for sure,” said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant. “They play faster defensively and offensively. Their transition game with Prahalis changes so much. She really adds a lot to that team in terms of what she can do to push tempo.”
The Buckeyes (12-2, 3-0 Big Ten) went on a 16-0 run near the outset and were never threatened while winning their sixth in a row.
“You reach a certain point of the season where you’re starting to establish an identity,” Foster said. “I would like to think that we’re becoming a pretty intense, aggressive defensive basketball team.”
Part of the reason he made the switch to an attacking style was because his lineup is stocked with players — led by the mobile, 6-foot-4 Lavender — who likes to get up and down the floor. Another reason was quick knockouts in the NCAA tournament each of the last three seasons, when the Buckeyes looked anything but athletic compared to their opponents.
“Yeah, we’re dramatically different,” Foster said. “We play with passion. We just play harder. The ball moves better. We don’t have ball-stoppers, we have ball-movers.”
Lavender, leading the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding, chose to shoot from the outside rather than mix it up inside with the Spartans’ 6-foot-9 Allyssa DeHaan.
When Lavender wasn’t moving to open spots for shots, power forward Star Allen was chipping in with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“We controlled the tempo of the game,” Lavender said. “We were working on pulling me out more, keeping her (DeHaan) away from the basket, and looking for Star more. Star can post up the other post player. Getting Allyssa away from the basket was our goal.”
Lavender, whose scoring streak includes every college game she has played, also had eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocked shots.
“Jantel Lavender is running the floor better than she’s ever run (it),” Merchant said.
Lauren Aitch had 14 points for the Spartans (9-6, 2-2), who never got closer than 14 points over the last 29 minutes.
Michigan State had won the last two meetings, but this one — matching the Big Ten’s top two scoring teams — was in Ohio State’s win column early.
After Brittney Thomas took an assist from Kalisha Keane to tie the game at 2-2 at the 18:46 mark, the Spartans went without a point for the next 6:57. Over that span, they missed all four shots from the field, didn’t go to the free-throw line and had seven turnovers. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were running off 16 points while hitting 6 of 13 from the field including two 3-pointers and both foul shots and committing just two turnovers.
Ashlee Trebilcock made two 3-pointers and Lavender also had six points in the spurt.
Ohio State didn’t take its foot off the gas, either, building the lead to 35-10 before the Spartans ran off seven points in the last minute of the half to go into the locker room down 37-17.
The Spartans had more turnovers than points through the first 19 minutes.
Ohio State led by as many as 27 points before the Michigan State whittled it down to 16 points in the final minutes.
Little created havoc defensively with four steals while adding six points and two assists.
“She’s a one-man press,” Merchant said.
Prahalis hit just 2 of 14 shots from the field but had seven assists and four steals. She and Lavender seem to feed off each other, with most of Prahalis’ assists going to last year’s Big Ten player of the year.
“Fans have said we’re like Shaq and Kobe,” Lavender said. “We have such a good chemistry on the floor.”
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 45-21, and holds an 18-9 advantage in Columbus.
Ohio State has won 86-consecutive regular-season games at home against unranked opponents. The last unranked team to win in Columbus was Penn State Feb. 2, 2002.
Ohio State is 75-4 at home since the start of the 2004-05 season and 102-8 all-time in Columbus under head coach Jim Foster. They are 10-1 at home this season. Jim Foster is 81-20 in Big Ten regular-season games at Ohio State.
Ohio State has won 36 of its last 37 Big Ten regular-season games at home and 66 of its last 75 overall.
Senior Star Allen recorded her first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Jantel Lavender has scored in double figures in all 45 career games. She finished with a game-high 20 points and leads the Big Ten with 22.1 points per game.
Lavender now 856 career points in only her sophomore season and is on pace to eclipse the 1,000-point mark in the next seven games.
Freshman Samantha Prahalis, who finished with a game-high seven assists, has dished out four or more in all but one game this season. She leads the Big Ten with 6.28 assists per game.
Ohio State is 10-0 this year when leading at the half.
Ohio State is 10-0 on the season when they make more free throws than its opponents.
Ohio State opened the game on an 18-2 run and took a 37-17 lead into halftime.
The Buckeyes forced 24 turnovers and scored 19 points off takeaways.
Ohio State’s bench outscored MSU’s, 33-16, and held a 15-2 advantage in transition points.
Ohio State held MSU’s leading scorers, Aisha Jefferson (13.4 ppg) and Allyssa DeHaan (10.3 ppg) to just six points each. They also held two starters Kalisha Keane (8.5 ppg) and Mia Johnson (5.2 ppg) scoreless.
Jim Foster, Ohio State head coach
On improving defensively
“You reach a point in the season where you start to establish an identity and I would like to think that we have become an intense, defensive basketball team.”
On the team’s differences from last year
“We are dramatically different. We play with passion. We play harder and the ball moves better. We don’t have ball stoppers, we have ball movers.”
On playing with aggression
“If you are an aggressive, defensive basketball team a lot of things happen. You become a better rebounding team because you’re aggressive and we just play better when we play that way.”
Samantha Prahalis, freshman guard
On Michigan State guards
“We knew we had to pressure their guards today and really deny the wings to make them deal with Shavelle (Little). They seem to have trouble in the post and the wings because we were keeping the ball out of their hands.”
Jantel Lavender, sophomore center
On game against Michigan State
“I was trying to keep Allyssa (DeHaan) away from the basket and Star (Allen) was able to post up in the paint and it worked out for us today.”
“A lot of people like the flavor Samantha brings and excitement in the game. She can hold on to the ball really well and I always have to stay ready with her passes inside.”
Star Allen, senior forward
“Our main goal today was to rebound the ball well. I thought we did a good job as a total and got a lot of second shots.”
Suzy Merchant, Michigan State head coach
On OSU’s ball pressure
“Give Ohio State credit, its ball pressure is much improved from a year ago and it really gave us problems. They extended much better than they did in the past. They did a great job of keeping our guards from getting in a scoring pocket.”
On freshman guard Samantha Prahalis
“Prahalis changes the game on both offense and defense. She adds a lot to the team when she can push tempo.”
On Michigan State’s role reversal
“We didn’t play as tough as we did at Purdue. Ohio State seemed to do exactly what we did against Purdue, they got to every lose ball, rebounded better and just were on their game.”
On Jantel Lavender
“I thought she did a great job on Allyssa (DeHaan). She was much more aggressive and physical than I remember. It was a total flip-flop from last year.”